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Decades After Birth Control Became Legal, It's Still Controversial

Five places in America where contraception is still a scary subject

Nearly a half-century after the Supreme Court legalized birth control, conservatives are still fighting to restrict access to contraception.
Tim Matsui/Getty Images
June 6, 2014 10:00 AM ET

Tomorrow, June 7th, is the 49th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court case that made obtaining birth control no longer a crime (well, at least for married couples – single women still had to wait another seven years).  With almost half a century of pills, IUDs, patches and injections on the market and in our bedrooms, you'd think that pregnancy prevention would be a pretty settled issue.

But it's not. Even today, there are a number of high-profile people in America who believe artificial means of preventing pregnancy are wrong – and sadly, a number of them have massive influence on our daily laws and culture.

Here are five places where contraception is just as controversial as it was 49 years ago:

1. Religious hospitals and clinics 

 Thanks to widespread mergers with religious medical centers, as well as a growing crusade to defund and close Planned Parenthood providers, getting birth control in a clinical setting is becoming more challenging. Last April, an entire town in Oklahoma nearly lost its ability to get hormonal contraception after a new religious directive for the city's medical center required the physicians to stop offering birth control for preventing pregnancy.  National blowback made the system reverse its policy, but in many physicians still find their hands tied and require patients to lie about why they want contraception.

Even a secular clinics aren't safe thanks to "conscience clauses" that allow your doctor to decide he or she won't provide birth control for pregnancy prevention, and thanks to these new bills, that doctor is under no obligation to help you find someone else who will.

See what made our list of the 10 dumbest things ever said about abortion and women's rights

2. Justice Scalia's office

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is considered one of the most conservative judges on the bench, and he makes no efforts to hide that fact. He also makes no effort to hide the fact that he believes Griswold was wrongly decided. Discussing the case and how the decision hinged on the idea that married couples had a right to privacy in the bedroom, Scalia said that simply isn't constitutionally true. "There is no right to privacy. No generalized right to privacy," Scalia told Fox News when asked about Griswold during a 2012 interview.

3. The Salina, Kansas County Commissioner's office

Preventing unintended, unwanted pregnancy is usually something that the government is a fan of, since it should mean both reducing abortion numbers and health care costs and services associated with birth. Salina's county commissioners instead decided to reject grant money for an IUD program, saying IUDs are "murder."

"I am not going to stand before my God, and he is going to point his finger and say, 'You aborted those kids,'" Commissioner John Price said during the funding debate. (IUDs, of course, prevent eggs from being fertilized, and have nothing to do with abortion.) The commission stated it may reconsider, but has yet to accept the grant.

4. American Life League protests

To some, sex without a willingness to create life is part of the "contraceptive mentality" that threatens marriage, parenting, proper gender dynamics and our entire civilization's moral fiber. But the American Life League (ALL) cloaks its war on non-procreative sex as a medical issue. For a decade they have done that with "The Pill Kills," an annual anti-Griswold campaign online and in front of reproductive health clinics across the country. It categorizes the physical complications that ALL claims hormonal contraception instigates, including strokes, breast cancer, heart attack and death. As opposed to being pregnant and giving birth every year or two, which they apparently think has no physical impact on a person at all.

5. Personhood USA

Whenever a "personhood" amendment goes on a state ballot, its backers claim granting legal rights at the moment of fertilization will have no impact on hormonal birth control. Then, when they speak with reporters, they admit it will. Mississippi Personhood advocates told Irin Carmon in 2011 that passing the amendment would ban hormonal contraption and IUDs, and today even former "personhood" supporters are abandoning the cause as going too far. Sadly, this hasn't slowed the movement itself, which is currently focusing its attention on North Dakota, which will offer the next statewide referendum on this never-ending "controversy" of contraception.

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