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No. 1, June 9-22, 1967
Avatar Interview with Bill Baird
p 6, 14

Interview with Bill Baird
- Criminal Against Chastity

ILL BAIRD, founder/director of Parent Aid Society, in Hempstead, New York, was arrested on April 6 in Boston University's Hayden Hall, after lecturing about, exhibiting and distributing birth control devices. He was charged with "Crimes Against Chastity," Section 272 of the Massachusetts state laws.
On May 8 he went on trial at the Roxbury District Court House, where his case was sent to Suffolk Superior Court. His trial in Superior Court was scheduled for June 5.
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AVATAR:What brought you to Boston?
Baird: The invitation of the BU NEWS and the signatures of almost a thousand students who had requested that I come here and test the archaic birth control laws. My thinking was that if the young adults were concerned enough about changing this law I would help them as best I could. I have a very warm and high regard for young people. It angers me that the adult world labels them as beatniks or peaceniks or Vietniks. It's unfair because the adult world that criticizes them makes money selling the magazines containing the criticism, so I stand not behind college students, or beside them, but in front of them as best I know how.
AVATAR: How has the reaction towards you been from the Boston community?
Baird: When I first came here the situation was jet black. The public misunderstood my efforts to challenge a law which had not been constitutionally challenged since 1917, but the faith I have in our cause has turned the situation from black at least to grey. Some rays of light can be seen, which will ultimately help the public see the total picture.
AVATAR: What is the outlook for the June 5 trial?
Baird: Not very good. Unless I can get public support I stand a very good chance of going to prison. Somehow I've got to help people remember that we have a responsibility to each other as human beings and, as corny as it may sound, a responsibility to love each other as people. You have millions of people in this state watching me being clobbered and no one but a handful of people, basically college students, are trying to stop it.
AVATAR: Do you feel that your efforts will eventually change this law?
Baird: The man in the street whom I talk with personally and the hundreds of letters that I receive, many from Roman Catholics, are strongly in favor of my efforts to change this law. My next job, though, is to bridge the reality gap between the public and the legislator; the reality being that the people want a change, but the legislators accept the myth that the religious opposition is too strong. I wish that somehow I could give them the courage to help them do what is their responsibility.
I know that eventually, if my funds hold out, the law will be changed. We need at least $10,000 to bring the case to the Supreme Court, but we don't have even a fraction of that. The law invades the privacy. of one's house, denies the freedom of speech and makes criminals out of most of society. The law is typical of society today. It says one thing but does another. The ones who suffer the most are the poor.
AVATAR: Could you talk a little bit about your personal philosophy?
Baird: My philosophy is a very simple one. It's just loving people and sincerely caring for them. I grew up in poverty but one of the things that my mother taught me was to always "remember the man who stubs his toe and falls by the wayside," and I always try to reach out and pick him up. Sometimes instead of picking him up I was pulled down but together we ultimately got up.
I feel very strongly that in today's day and age people find it difficult to say that they love someone, or to care about another person. They think the sign of a man is to be hard, not to show a tear or a tender moment; the James Cagney type where you have to be rough and rugged. Physically I'm pretty rough and rugged, I'm a former boxer, but I'm not ashamed of tears in my eyes at something tender. At Emerson and at BU when they gave me a standing ovation it made me cry but I don't think this makes me less of a man.
I think men have to be more sure of themselves. The feeling of saying something nice about someone is one that we should get more often. When a man like Adenauer dies they come from all over the world to leave bouquets and bouquets at his feet, but, to me, how much better it would have been to give the man one rose while he was living, rather than all the eulogies after wards. I call it a social guilt release. We're the only ones who feel better. He's dead.
AVATAR: What comes after Massachusetts?
Baird: I'm seriously thinking of quitting because I can't take it physically anymore. When you're used to a high income and give it up and then get abused for giving it up, you ask yourself why the hell should I continue, but knowing me since I've already been asked to test the law in Pennsylvania, that will probably be my next state.

As we go to press: Bill Baird has been indicted by the Suffolk County Grand Jury for exhibiting and giving away "diaphragms, Trojans, IUD's, and Emko Vaginal Foam." If convicted he would face a possible $1000 fine and five years confinement in the State Prison at Walpole.

TODAY (35 years later): For information on the results of Baird's trial (he was sentenced to three months imprisonment), and his further activites, including the founding of the Pro-Choice League, see The Pro-Choice League: History. Also, more at The American Atheist page, on "The Father of the Abortion Rights Movement". You can read Baird's article, The People vs. Bill Baird: Struggling for Your Right to Privacy and much more online. Bill Baird has not stopped his battle.


Mel Lyman