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Griswold v. Connecticut

Citation. 381 U.S. 479, 85 S. Ct. 1678, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510, 1965 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Appellants, Griswold and others (Appellants), was arrested for providing information, instructions, and medical advice to married persons as a means to prevent conception.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Intimate marital relations lie within a zone of privacy into which the government may not intrude.


Connecticut law criminalized the use of chemical and mechanical contraception, as well as the counseling and aiding the use of such contraception. The Petitioner was the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. The Petitioner was arrested after providing information and instructions on birth control methods to married people.


May the government ban all use of contraceptives?


No. Appeals Court ruling reversed.
Justice William Douglas (J. Douglas) describes the “penumbras[] formed by emanations from specific guarantees of the Bill of Rights.” In particular, he describes the fact that the State cannot “contract the spectrum of available knowledge” consistent with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution). He also describes the rights to “privacy and repose” suggested by many of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights.
J. Douglas suggests that the marital relationship lies at the center of such a zone of privacy. As the law prohibits the use of contraceptives, rather than their manufacture or sale, the law is aimed at the core of the marital relationship. He argues that this is too broad a sweep to be a constitutional exercise of state authority.


Justices Hugo Black (J. Black) and Potter Stewart (J. Stewart) dissented. They admit they find the Connecticut statute offensive, but believe that unless there is a specific constitutional provision otherwise, the remedy for such legislation is through the political branches, not the judiciary.
Justice John Marshall Harlan (J. Marshall) argues that the statute should be overturned on Due Process grounds, as the enactment violates “basic values ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.’”
Justice Byron White (J. White) concurs on due process grounds, believing that the purpose of the statute is to enforce policies disfavoring illicit sexual contact. He notes that denying married couples the right to contraception in no way strengthens that policy.
Justice Arthur Goldberg (J. Goldberg) believes that the Ninth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) guarantees that the marital relation is a right retained by the people, and as such, Connecticut does not have the constitutional authority to abridge that relationship.


The opinion of the Court in Griswold is unusual in that it relies on inferred rights in the Constitution. Furthermore, it is difficult to distinguish how the Supreme Court’s opinion is any more “correct” than the concurring opinions offered.

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