Eugenics & Contraception, part 18

Bill Baird was the clinical director for a birth control manufacturer in 1963 when he became a fierce proponent of not only birth control but also abortion. An unmarried mother of nine stumbled into a hospital he was visiting, soaked in blood from the waist down. She died that evening, in his arms, of a botched, coat hanger abortion.  The image stayed with him forever. 

He started giving away samples of contraceptive foam, and converted a van into a mobile birth control dispensary called the Plan Van, which he drove around to poor communities and college campuses.  Baird was arrested eight times for distributing birth control and literature on abortion in five different states, a choice of direct action Planned Parenthood and other birth control orgs did not agree with. Planned Parenthood called Baird an “embarrassment” and said there was “nothing to be gained” from such unlawful activism. 

Before I go further I must explain that Baird is contentious, hated by the anti-choice right and not fondly remembered by the left. He never sought the counsel or advice of Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women (NOW), or the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL). He drove his creepy van to low income and racially marginalized neighborhoods handing out birth control, and some suggest he was pressuring young women to sleep with him. 

He saw himself as a one man “crusader” on a “holy war” for birth control. The pharmaceutical company that employed him – and whose samples he was giving away – did not agree with this assessment and he was fired. Betty Friedan thought he was a CIA infiltrator, trying to make the birth control movement look bad. Original transphobe Robin Morgan called him “one of the more male-supremacist men around.” In a 1993 New York Times interview he was still bitter Gloria Steinem never thanked him for her right to birth control. 

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