Over 50 years ago, Bill Baird, 82, began a journey that resulted in our ability to choose birth control, abortion, and our sexual practices as individuals rather than solely for marrieds or at the whim of the state.
Prior to Baird, Emma Goldman, Margaret Sanger, and Ben Reitman are best known of the activists to have been arrested for education on reproductive freedom starting in 1916. However, these three also collectively and individually worked for additional controversial political causes such as anarchism, socialism, and racial eugenics. Furthermore, while Dr. Ben Reitman is better known for his work on abortion and venereal diseases than anarchism, his resultant fame is well-eclipsed by that of Goldman and Sanger who are thereby claimed by the feminists as two of their own. Although the work of these three is certainly important in terms of awareness and acceptance of sexual freedom, their progress on these areas was limited, particularly in the context of world events.
By the 1960’s, the climate was still unfavorable to reproductive freedom and Baird was arrested and jailed eight times in five states for educating on birth control and abortion. He also actually performed abortions (as did Reitman, a romantic partner of Emma Goldman whose interest in “free love” did not match Reitman’s). In fact, according to Wikipedia, “Bill Baird’s advocacy for reproductive rights began in 1963 after witnessing the death of an unmarried mother of nine children who died of a self-inflicted coat hanger abortion. As the clinical director of EMKO, a birth control manufacturer, he had been coordinating research at Harlem Hospital when she stumbled into the corridor, covered with blood from the waist down.”
(Source: Love and Cott, Feminists Who Changed America)
Finally in 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut established the right of married couples to use birth control. However, if marriage is “a tool of the patriarchy” as described by numerous feminist activists, then Baird’s contribution would be considered pivotal by key feminist organizations, right? Wrong.
Unlike previous activists, Baird’s efforts weren’t complicated by additional political agendas. He produced a signboard on which the various methods of birth control were displayed (birth control pills, diaphragm, condom, contraceptive foam, IUD) and would lecture freely to standing crowds throughout the country including the Bible Belt.
Baird brought a case to the Supreme Court that resulted in birth control being legal for non-married people (Baird v. Eisenstadt, 1972) extending the Right to Privacy to them. This historic victory set the primary legal precedent for Roe v. Wade (1973) that legalized abortion (or didn’t matter if one is a feminist and author of revisionist history), once the ideal case—Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe)—was identified. Although denied the abortion she sought and the cause of great acclaim toward the (female) attorneys in question (Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington), the National Organization of Women among other prominent feminist organizations apparently had little use for McCorvey soon afterward and thereby abandoned her. Unsurprisingly, when McCorvey was courted by Pro-Life activists, the economically struggling and reportedly temperamental lesbian Texan switched sides. In fact, part of the reason for McCorvey’s selection as the ideal Pro-Choice case in the first place had to do with the fact that she couldn’t afford to travel to a state where abortion was legal such as California.
The fact that McCorvey originally intended to lie that she was raped in order to circumvent Texas law is of particular note today for feminism’s current “rape culture/consent culture” climate.
By the way, it so happens that Roe v. Wade had a companion case known as Doe v. Bolton, wherein the plaintiff, Sandra Cano, who identifies as Pro-Life, had to be tricked by her (female) attorney into being the plaintiff for the case. However, since Cano apparently had more funds to make a stink about this deception, feminist revisionist history omits her.
Subsequent to Baird v. Eisenstadt, Baird had two more Supreme Court victories for a total of three, which is unique for a private citizen. He is also prominent in the clinic defense movement wherein live human beings—mostly men—put their bodies on the line for the protection of women. He has been shot at, assaulted, threatened, harassed, stalked, and driven to bankruptcy. After incurring a lifetime’s worth of incredible debt from legal costs, Baird was unable to raise a penny from any prominent Pro-Choice organization.
Baird was one of the earliest and loudest voices for birth control, abortion rights, gay rights, consenting adult lifestyles and practices, adult entertainment, and the legalization of marijuana. However, if you have never heard of Bill Baird and were wondering when the feminist-supportive media was planning to celebrate him, you could be wondering a long time.
Whereas Baird has been able to retain support of independents and pockets within the big organizations, such support comes at a price namely marginalization. Token acknowledgment therefore has failed to permeate the mainstream narrative which credits “feminism” for access to birth control and abortion while a safe and discrete male birth control solution has as yet failed to materialize for the general public (but there is hope in Vasagel). Every year, Right To Privacy Day is celebrated in cities across the United States on March 22 by sexual freedom advocates and clinic defenders, in celebration of the Baird v. Eisenstadt victory, albeit such grassroots efforts are ignored by The Patriarchymainstream feminist organizations and the media which panders to them.
Today, Bill Baird and his wife Joni continue their work through their organization Pro-Choice League (prochoiceleague.org). A book that will reportedly provide an unprecedented thorough history of reproductive freedom is near completion. A small handful of loyal supporters donate when they can and the Bairds manage to sustain and continue their work.
Here is what Joni Baird has to say about the reaction of prominent feminists to her husband’s work, starting with Baird v. Eisenstadt:
The case began when Baird responded to a petition signed by nearly 700 Boston University students asking him to challenge the 1879 Massachusetts law that denied unmarried individuals access to birth control. On April 6, 1967, he lectured at Boston University to more than 2,500 people and, in a prearranged move, handed a nineteen-year-old unmarried woman a free condom and a package of contraceptive foam. The police thereupon made the necessary arrest and his case was launched.
Unfortunately, all wasn’t well among Baird’s supporters. The prearranged representation by the American Civil Liberties Union fell through two weeks after his arrest when the organization began questioning the constitutional merits of Baird’s case.
Another setback came when Jackie Ceballos of the newly formed National Organization for Women declined to support his efforts, stating that if his name were “Wilhelmina Baird” they would have backed him. NOW never did file a “friend of the court” brief in support of the case at any point during its five-year climb through the courts. Betty Friedan called Baird’s work “irrelevant” and even launched a rumor, initiated in the New York Post in 1971, that Baird was a CIA agent.
Probably the biggest shock was Planned Parenthoods response. The director of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts wrote that their lawyers had found no violation of constitutional rights in the law that was being challenged. Planned Parenthood President Alan Guttmacher called Baird “overly enthusiastic.” Another organizational representative added, “The League feels it can live with the present law and Baird’s efforts are an embarrassment to our group.”
Despite this mixture of apathy and hostility from leading allies in the larger struggle for reproductive freedom, Baird pressed on, serving three months in the Charles Street Jail for distributing birth control, In handing down the sentence Judge Donald Macauley declared Baird “a menace to this nation.”
But the case finally reached the Supreme Court, where Associate Justice William O. Douglas wrote, “While the teachings of Bill Baird and Galileo are of a different order, the suppression of either is equally repugnant” The decision was six to one with Chief Justice Warren Burger dissenting. With that decision every birth control statute in the nation was struck down.
On the day the Court ruled, Baird predicted to reporters that antiabortion laws would be repealed within one year. Ten months later the Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, quoting Baird’s case six times in its legalization of abortion.
Nonetheless, Baird was effectively written out of history. Leading reproductive rights organizations have preferred to cite an earlier case, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), in which a right of privacy was established in regard to the use of contraceptives by married couples. But it was the extension of privacy to unmarrieds that made the right complete, which is why Baird’s case, in the words of the late Roe v. Wade attorney Roy Lucas, “supplanted” Griswold. Lucas adds in his 2004 Roger Williams University Law Review article, “New Historical Insights on the Curious Case of Baird v. Eisenstadt,” that “one must acknowledge that the decision is among the most influential in the United States during the entire century by any manner or means of measurement” and says the case has impacted international law in Canada, Ireland, and England. It was even quoted five times in the 2003 Supreme Court decision in the gay rights case, Lawrence v. Texas.
While a male abortionist and a poor pregnant lesbian might not have the marquee appeal of a Somaly Mam, the discredited anti-trafficking activist to the great embarrassment of the organizations which supported her, being dropped when no longer useful would appear to be a pattern of the corporate and government feminist strongholds who supposedly represent feminism and its face of activism. This movement which supposedly represents all women (except “self-hating” ones such as this author) and those men who desire equal rights for men and women (but not “men’s rights”) have become the de facto certifying authority of what constitutes sexual political-correctiveness and the government’s involvement thereto. While cries of “racism” and “eugenics” might today be the rallying cry of the unholy alliance between Social Marxists and The Religious Right in the United States, a Swedish blog led me to this: https://caprizchka.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/feminists-copy-neo-nazis-by-re-writing-history/.
The Bairds were not contacted for this article as it would surely do them no favors to be endorsed by a nutcase such as Caprizchka.