Legality Surrounding Birth Control

Correspondence on Mailing Contraceptives in America

Correspondence between Mr. MacWilliams and Mr. Morris Ernst outlining the laws surrounding mailing birthcontrol in 1936. The lawyer, Mr. MacWilliams, maintained that it was now federally legal for physicians to mail contraceptives and education on them as long as state law did not specifcally prohibit it.

The Comstock Law of 1873 outlawed the distribution and education of contraceptives completely in the United States of America. During this time peirod, many women sturggled through ill-equipped abortions or faced the burden of birthing several childern in her lifetime, due to lack of access and education on birth control. What's more, many of the laws surrounding birth control were culturally considered outdated and were poorly enforced. However, due to lack of education and access to contraceptives, women continued risking their lives in fear of laws that held little merit.

Through efforts of activist such as Mary Dennet, lawyers, and groups like ABCL, the U.S. Court of Appeals federally legalized birth control on November 30, 1936. Under this federal law, birth control could be obtained under the direction and prescription of medical physicians only, and many state laws still prohibited contraceptives completely. 

Correspondence Concerning the Legality of Contraceptives in America

Correspondence engaging the American Birth Control League and their lawyer on an inquiry to the legality of purchasing, selling, and mailing contraceptives in 1938 by citizens. The lawyer advised that it was illegal to do so under both federal and state law, as only physicians could prescribe, mail, and educate patients on contraceptives. 

With the landmark law of 1936 federally legalizing birth control, organizations attempted to market, mail, and sell contraceptives over the counter through their own drugstores without a physicians consent. During the first years of the legalizaton, many birth control organizations requested legal aid in understanding and navagating the new laws surrounding birth control, such as the American Birth Control League.

In the 1930s, much of the debate surrounding contraceptives was access to birth control through condoms and other forms of physical barriers, and even the simple education of birth control options and family planning.

By the 1960s, the birth control pill was invented, and is widely used today as a common contraceptive for birth control. Furthering women's rights and access to birth control came in another form in 1973, when Supreme Court Case Roe vs. Wade ruled for the legal choice for Americans to obtain an abortion at the federal level.

Today, much of the debate surrounding women's rights and birth control is not centered around only contraceptives, but the right and choice to a legal abortion. As recent at 2019, Georgia and Alabama created bills servely controlling or banning abortion completely. Similar to the differences in federal and state laws in the 1930s preventing or allowing birth control, today there continues to be a battle between federal and state laws in the right to legal abortion, despite the Roe vs. Wade supreme court decision.