Appellants challenged the Connecticut statutes that make it a crime to use any drug or medicinal instrument for the purpose of preventing conception.
The Court has protected the freedom to associate and privacy in one’s associations and that freedom of association is a peripheral First Amendment right.
Appellant Griswold is Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. Appellant Buxton is a licensed physician and a professor at the Yale Medical School who served as Medical Director for the League at its center in New Haven. Both appellants gave information, instruction and medical advice to married persons as to the means of preventing conception. They examined the wife and prescribed the best contraceptive device for use. A Connecticut statute prohibits anyone from using any drug or medicinal instrument for the purpose of preventing conception and another statute punishes an accessory as though he were a principal. Appellants were found guilty as accessories.
Does the Connecticut statutes that make it a crime to use any drug or medicinal instrument for the purpose of preventing conception violate the Constitution?
Yes, because the present case concerns a relationship lying within the zone of privacy created by fundamental constitutional guarantees and it concerns a law which, in forbidding the use of contraceptives rather than regulating their manufacture or sale, seeks to achieve its goals by means having a maximum destructive impact on that relationship. Such a law cannot stand in light of the principle that a governmental purpose to control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to state regulation may not be achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected freedoms.
The Court talks about a constitutional right of privacy as though there is some constitutional provision forbidding any law ever to be passed which might abridge the privacy of individuals. But there is not. There are, of course, guarantees in certain specific constitutional provisions that are designed to protect privacy at certain times and places with respect to certain activities. But it belittles that Amendment to talk about it as though it protects nothing but privacy. To treat it that way is to give it a niggardly interpretation, not the kind of liberal reading any Bill of Rights provision should be given.
In determining which rights are fundamental, judges are not left at large to decide cases in light of their personal and private notions. Rather, they must look to the traditions and collective conscience of our people to determine whether a principle is so rooted there as to be ranked as fundamental. Liberty also gains content from the emanations of specific constitutional guarantees and from experience with the requirements of a free society. Though the Connecticut birth-control law obviously encroaches upon a fundamental personal liberty, the State does not show that the law serves any subordinating state interest which is compelling or that it is necessary to the accomplishment of a persmissble state policy.
Prior cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance. Various guarantees create zones of privacy. The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in the Court’s precedents. Thus, the statutes that seek to deter marriage and carriage violate the Constitution.