American Law on Contraception 1873 to 1965

The "Comstock" Law, US Federal Law, passed unanimously in the United States Congress in 1873:

All persons are prohibited from importing into the United States, from any foreign country, any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, writing, advertisement, circular, print, picture, drawing, or other representation, figure, or image on or of paper or other material, or any cast, instrument, or other article of an immoral nature, or any drug or medicine, or any article whatever, for the prevention of conception, or for causing unlawful abortion.

This was the law of the United States of America (even if not strictly enforced) until repealed by the Supreme Court in 1965, seven years before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion.

On December 7, 1964, an infamous date in the history of our nation, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear Griswold vs. Connecticut, which challenged the Comstock Law. The hearings took place on March 29 and 30th of 1965. On June 7, 1965, a decision based upon "privacy rights" was handed down, repealing this last remaining criminal status of contraception from the law books. And then in 1973 these privacy rights formed the basis of the Court's decision in Roe vs. Wade.


Me said...

ya, so?

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I guess I thought the "so what" was obvious. Let me put it plainly:

1. Contraception was legalized in this country in our lifetimes. Prior to the current generation, contraception was not only identified as sin by every church in the world, it was also ruled criminal by the government. The kingdom of the left agreed with the kingdom of the right, and it was only after the kingdom of the right began to get soft in 1930 that the kingdom of the left followed suit.

2. Legalization of contraception led to the legalization of abortion. The same legal argument was used in both cases, through which full "reproductive freedom" was born. Welcome to the new world of below replacement level fertility and wackos who think we should depopulate the earth to save the sacred environment.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the general point, but actually the federal Comstock law was pretty much gone before 1965, with its most important provisions having been declared unconstitutional by a federal appellate court in 1936. See United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries, 86 F.2d 737 (2nd Cir. 1936). It was Connecticut's state statutory ban on contraception which was declared unconstitutional in 1965 in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965). The Court in that case (Justice Douglas authoring the majority opinion) created out of whole cloth the "right to privacy" which has since been used to justify declaring unconstitutional the statutes criminalizing abortion and sodomy, among other mischief.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I was aware that parts of the law had been gutted by "judicial legislation" back in 1936, but I did not have the specifics. Nevertheless, the law remained on the books as written until 1965. Thanks for the additional information. The points I intended to make with this post still stand.

Anonymous said...

On this, the courts were following, not leading the populace. Once Protestants (I am one) threw in the towel on the traditional Christian view of contraception, it was inevitable that the law would follow. Most states had already liberalized their laws on contraception by 1965. The few hold outs, such as Connecticut, had large Catholic populations. The irony here is that it was Protestant legislators and Congressmen, elected by predominantly Protestant voters who enacted these laws to start with.

I have been researching this for a scholarly article I am writing. As I am sure you know, the traditional Christian view, shared by Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians for the first 19 centuries of our Faith, is that contraception is gravely sinful. Both Luther and Calvin condemned contraception in the harshest possible terms. Luther called it sodomitic and Calvin called in murder. How Margaret Sanger managed to divide Catholics and Protestants on this and to play on anti-Catholic prejudice to convince Protestants that this is a "Catholic" issue rather than a Christian one is a fascinating study into how propaganda works.