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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.

A Connecticut provision outlawing the counseling of others to use contraception, as well as the use of contraception, was found unconstitutional under strict scrutiny because it violated the Due Process Clause.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The right of marital privacy lies within the penumbra of the Bill of Rights. Therefore, it is a fundamental right and strict scrutiny is the standard of judicial review.


Appellant, Ms. Griswold, was the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut (“League”). Appellant and the Medical Director for the League gave information and instruction and medical advice to married couples about birth control. Appellant and her colleague were convicted under a Connecticut law which criminalized counseling, and other medical treatment to married persons for purposes of preventing conception. Appellants were found guilty as accessories and fined $100 each. The state appellate courts affirmed.


Whether the Constitution protects the right of marital privacy against state restrictions on a couple’s ability to be counseled in the use of contraceptives?


Yes. Judgment of the state appellate court affirmed. The Bill of Rights has a penumbra expanding the right of privacy. The present case concerns a relationship lying within the zone of privacy created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees. It also concerns a law that, 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 upon that relationship. Such a law cannot stand in light of the familiar 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.” Thus, the Connecticut statute conflicts with the exercise of this right and is therefore null and void.


The government has a right to invade one’s privacy unless there is a specific constitutional provision prohibiting such invasion.
The law in this case is a silly one. However, the Court is not asked if it is silly. Rather, the Court is asked whether the law violates the constitution. There is no such general right of privacy in the Bill of Rights. Therefore, this law does not violate the Constitution.
Concurrence. The unenumerated right of privacy in the marital relation is “a personal right ‘retained by the people’ within the meaning of the Ninth Amendment.” Therefore, it is among the fundamental liberties that are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment from infringement by the states.
The proper constitutional inquiry in this case is whether this Connecticut statute infringes the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment because the enactment violates basic values “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” The “liberty” of the Due Process Clause is a rational continuum which includes a freedom from all substantial arbitrary impositions and purposeless restraints.
A ban on the use of contraceptives by married couples does not reinforce the state’s ban on illicit sexual relationships.


The plurality holding in this case introduced the concept of penumbras in order to expand the liberties of the Bill of Rights to include the right of privacy within the marital relation.

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