The News’ coverage from 50 years ago: campus reacts to birth control speaker

October 27, 2022

This fall, the Huntington News has been collaborating with editors of the paper from 1967 through 1973. Then called the Northeastern News, the staff produced a variety of articles and editorials about birth control. Below is the text from some of those articles, to give a glimpse of  what the coverage was like.

Baird fights for your freedom

Sometime within the next two weeks, birth control crusader Bill Baird will appear for
sentencing before the State Supreme Court in what may be the final act of his dramatic struggle
against Massachusetts archaic birth control laws.

He was arrested April 8, 1967 at Boston University for handing out a contraceptive to an
unmarried coed. The state has found him guilty of “crimes against chastity” and if he can’t raise
enough money for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he has a much better chance of
overturning this absurd judgment, he stands a chance of going to jail for ten years.
Massachusetts laws prohibit the dissemination of birth control information or devices, to
unmarried women. Baird is testing the constitutionality of this century-old ruling.
Baird’s detractors have raised several arguments in their opposition to the changing of these
laws, a favorite being that increased access to birth control information will lead to a
corresponding increase in promiscuity.

Baird has been fighting this kind of puritanical reasoning through the courts. Of the
prosecution he stated: They claim, believe it or not, that if these laws are revoked all the women
in Massachusetts will become prostitutes. They feel it is the state’s responsibility to protect the
morality of its citizens.

This view needs repudiating. It is not business of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to
legislate laws concerning the morality of birth control. The state should have no power to abridge
individual freedom by controlling the distribution of information and devices to these unmarried
females who have decided in favor of birth control. It is none of the state’s business how an
unmarried female conducts her personal life with regard to sex any more than it is its business to
invade the privacy and sanctity of a married couple’s bedroom.

The issue of birth control has far-reaching implications relating to the abortion issue.
Abortion is illegal in the U.S. According to Baird, there are 1,000,000 abortions performed every
year. 10,000 women die or face serious dangers because they are forced to deal underground
through illegal channels.

It is not illogical to assume that is. System where birth control information and devices are
readily available, where information and education flourishes, in place of repression and dangers
and threat, these dreadful figures may be reduced.

If abortion were legal, women who have decided on this course of action would be allowed the
safety and protection of hospitals and the care of doctors.

As usual the laws work against the poor. There are obviously women who want abortions.
They range from the most disparate of situations. Robert Coles wrote in “New Republic,” June
10, 1967 (Who’s to Be Born?).

“There are the poor, who by the many thousands hurt themselves terribly and sometimes
fatally in a desperate effort to be rid of a responsibility they feel they simply cannot accept;
and there are the wealthy, some of whom can get a psychiatrist to call them “ill” and thus fit
for “therapeutic abortions.” (In New York City the death rate from criminal abortions is ten
times higher among Negroes and Puerto Ricans than among whites.)

Birth control and abortion are related subjects. Bill Baird has been battling on his own for
enlightened approaches by lawmakers; he stuck out his neck to challenge this “cradle of
liberty’s” Puritanical approach to birth control. He is tired and broke. The authorities have
pressured him from all sides; he is in desperate need. He is fighting against stupid laws which
affect all human elements on this campus. He needs massive contributions to continue this
struggle. He needs pickets, petitions, support groups and money, even the pocket change of
students. Baird’s address is 1575 Commonwealth Ave. Apt. 4. Help him.

Baird appeals to 1200 frosh

“Who belongs in your bedroom? The state?” asked birth control advocate William R. Baird of approximately
1200 freshmen who gave him a standing ovation Sept. 9 in Alumni Auditorium.

Stating that people in Massachusetts are liable for a three-month prison term for violation of the state’s
chastity laws by fornication, Baird emphasized that “What goes on in your bedroom is your own private

He indicated that female violators of the law are being punished with unwanted pregnancies due to the
illegality of birth control devices.

“Moralists who want to keep laws on the books say that when birth control devices are. Legalized
women will become prostitutes. There are no birth control laws in some states, are there more
prostitutes there?” queried Baird.

At the Student Council’s invitation, the 35-year-old founder and director of New York’s Parent Aid Society
and Clinic brought his crusade to Northeastern where the co-eds were “third in asking for information on
abortion” among the colleges he had visited.

Baird, who was sentenced to three months in prison by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Donald
Macaulay for giving a Boston University student a contraceptive foam while lecturing at the university
in 1967, asked the audience, “If I do go, for God’s sake, don’t let me go to jail for nothing.”

His sentence was stayed pending his appeal to the Supreme Court.

“This is one helluva fight. I’m up against the Catholic Church, laws that are 100 years old and the apathy of the nation. It’s scarry not knowing whether I’ll be arrested or not,” he continued.

Stating that he was “glad that Northeastern has finally realized the tremendous problem of unwanted
pregnancies.” Baird said that “the highest number of pregnancies is in the first year of college.”

He also stated that according to the President’s Crime Commission over one million abortions are performed
illegally in the United States every year and that over 10,000 women die from these abortions.

Asking the audience “not to let these figures roll off your backs” Baird said that the greatest problem facing
the world today is the present birth rate.

After asking if the present birth control and abortion laws are protecting the people, Baird said that in
addition to the population problem, the laws were also increasing the number of “abandoned children, children born into homes where they are not wanted or loved.”

The former medical director of Emko, a pharmaceutical firm which produces a contraceptive foam, stated
that 1,000 heroin addicted babies were born by addicted prostitutes unable to legally purchase birth control

“Isn’t it of far more value to let these women have abortions or birth control information?” he asked.
After explaining the primitive and often fatal methods women use to abort themselves, Baird displayed
various birth control devices including chemical and mechanical contraceptives.

Baird who serves as an advisor to New York City Mayor Lindsay and the New York state legislature, closed
by asking “What the hell have you done for your own right to sexual freedom?”

By Mary Gelinas. Appeared in the paper Sept. 19, 1969.

NU students back Baird with rally at State House

More than 100 Northeastern students, all but a handful of them freshman, showed up at the State House Sept. 10 to support Bill Baird’s challenge of Massachusetts birth control laws.

Baird has spoken at Northeastern’s Alumni Auditorium Tuesday evening and had asked for support the
following afternoon when he confronted Attorney General Robert Quinn regarding the rejection of Baird’s
attempt to challenge the laws by public referendum.

The students arrived at the State House at noon and began a picket line. Some couples held hands.

Baird arrived at quarter past with a fresh batch of signs and the enthusiasm, and the chanting picked up.

Three State House policemen stood by watching and talking with curious pedestrians.

A Green Beret in full uniform with campaign ribbons and medals and wire-rimmed sunglasses stood nearby,
movie camera at the ready, immortalizing the event on film.

“Legalize birth control, freedom for Bill Baird”

Two of the policemen began talking, smiled and turned to face Beacon Street, their backs to the marchers.

“We want a referendum!”

At 12:00 Baird stopped the march and made a short speech to his followers and supporters who clustered
around him.

He thanked them all for their support and headed up the stairs to the State House followed by reporters and

And the students at the bottom of the steps, the freshmen who had only registered the day before, said
goodbye to their first college demonstration and decided by acclamation to march back to school slowly and

By Don Leamy.

The Huntington News • Copyright 2023 • FLEX WordPress Theme by SNOLog in