Title: Eisenstadt v Baird, 1972

Medium: Gouache and ink on paper

Year: 2019

Story: William Baird was charged with a felony for distributing contraceptive foams after lectures on birth control and population control at Boston University. The prearranged violation of the law occurred on April 6, 1967 when Baird handed a condom and a package of contraceptive foam to a 19-year-old woman. Under Massachusetts law on “Crimes against chastity” contraceptives could be distributed only by registered doctors or pharmacists, and only to married persons.

After Baird was convicted, an appeal resulted in partial overturn by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which concluded that the lectures were covered by First Amendment protections. However, the court affirmed the conviction under contraceptive distribution laws. Baird filed a petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus, which was refused by the federal district court. Upon appeal, The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated the dismissal and remanded the action with directions to grant the writ, and dismiss the charge, reasoning that the Massachusetts law infringed on fundamental human rights of unmarried couples as guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This ruling was then appealed to the United States Supreme Court, by Sheriff Eisenstadt, who had prosecuted the case, on the ground that Baird lacked standing to appeal, being neither an authorized distributor under the statute nor a single person. (Wikipedia)

The court struck down a state law that allows distribution of contraceptives to married people while prohibiting it to unmarried couples, holding that this law violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th amendment. This decision established that the right to privacy protects access to contraceptives for married people and unmarried people alike. (ACLU)