“Special Section on Plan A: NCJW’s Campaign for Contraceptive Access” by Erica Brody

Reference: National Council of Jewish Women

Through the generations, NCJW members have held firmly to the belief that the right to prevent pregnancies is fundamental to women’s equality and well-being. And they’ve passed this family value on to their children.

Some grew up, like Joan Butwin, when “nice girls didn’t.” Others, like Terry Vismantas, “came of age during the era of free sex, love, and rock ‘n’ roll.” Some grew up when the pill was ubiquitous; others, like Sue Schreiber, when only married women could get the pill.

Historically, NCJW was an early supporter of Margaret Sanger’s work, passing a 1931 resolution in favor of women’s access to confidential family planning services. Today, contraception is fully legal, yet access is still not guaranteed and varies state by state. In the decades between, NCJW activists worked hard to expand women’s access to contraception, preventing sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancies through education, funding, and policy changes. History shared through personal stories has helped fuel this movement, as generation after generation has passed down tales and memories of what life was like before.

Before Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Supreme Court case that established a married woman’s right to use birth control. Before Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), which expanded that right to include unmarried people.

Or even further back, when it was a federal offense to distribute birth control — or even information about contraception — through the mail or across state lines.

In recent years, the backlash against contraception and information has grown more prevalent and politically powerful, spurred largely by a religious right committed to curtailing the ability of others to make their own personal decisions. Headlines attest to this: women unable to get birth control prescriptions filled, inadequate funding for programs that provide poor women with contraception, laws that exempt employer-provided insurance from contraceptive equity, barriers for young women, abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula that mislead students about the efficacy of contraception, and attempts to redefine contraceptives as abortifacients.

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