Republicans Denounce Ruling on the Right to Contraception

As part of their widespread and ongoing attack on federal rights and ‘liberal’ values, Republican politicians are now attacking a Supreme Court ruling on the right to birth control. Republican candidates for Michigan Attorney General denounced the court’s ruling in the Griswold v. Connecticut case in February. A month later, a Republican Senator agreed, calling the ruling unconstitutional.

The Griswold ruling is seen as the precedent on which cases like Roe v. Wade were settled. Republican denouncing of the Griswold decision comes as part of their larger campaign on ‘hot button’ topics, like LGBT rights and abortion.

Griswold v. Connecticut

Resolved in a 7-to-2 ruling in 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut was a landmark case in US history. In the case, the Supreme Court struck down an 1879 Connecticut law that made it illegal to use any drug or other item to prevent pregnancy, or to distribute info about contraception.

The majority ruled the law impermissible as it violated Americans’ right to privacy. Griswold was the first time Supreme Court justices acknowledged the existence of a constitutional right to privacy.

The court went on to reference Griswold in various other high-profile decisions, including Roe v. Wade in 1973, which legalised abortion, and Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which decriminalised sodomy.

Griswold v. Connecticut laid the foundation for decisions that legalised abortion, same-sex marriage, sodomy, interracial marriage, and more.

In 2012, Republican Senator Roy Blunt put forward an amendment to the Senate that would allow employers to deny contraception coverage to employees as part of business health plans. Based on the age-old Republican cry for ‘religious freedom’, the amendment was narrowly defeated, 51-48.

Michigan Attorney General Candidates Denounce Supreme Court Decision

In February, at the conclusion of a debate between contenders for next Michigan Attorney General, Republican candidates were asked: “how do each of you stand on Griswold v. Connecticut?”

None of the three men recognised the case by name, and one even pulled out a phone to look it up during the debate. After they had been informed of the details of the ruling, every single Republican candidate expressed their disagreement with the decision.

Current Attorney General for Michigan, Dana Nessel, has vigorously condemned the statements of the Republican candidates.

Just one month later, in a video criticising Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Senator Marsha Blackburn called Griswold “constitutionally unsound”. Representing Tennessee, the Republican has a reputation as one of the Senate’s most reflexive far-right representatives.

All the Republicans mentioned, who denounced Griswold, have defended their stances on the basis of ‘states’ rights’. Former House speaker Tom Leonard – one of the Michigan Attorney candidates, claimed, “My problem with Griswold isn’t the result — of course states shouldn’t ban contraceptives — but rather how the Supreme Court got there”.

Republican Senator Mike Braun of Indiana attacked Griswold in late March on the same basis: that states should have the right to decide. When asked whether his reasoning extended to Loving v. Virginia, he answered “yes”, with no hesitation. The Loving ruling of 1967 struck down state laws against interracial marriage.

Many anticipate the conservative majority in the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade this year. Clearly, this will be just one victory the Republicans can use to build their attack against other ‘settled law’ rights. What happened to keeping the government out of private lives?

Cover photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash.

Follow Maddie’s journalism journey on Twitter.

For early access to content like this, join our Free newsletter!