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Griswold v. Connecticut

Citation. 381 U.S. 479, 85 S.Ct. 1678, 14 L.Ed.2d 510 (1965).
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Citation. 381 U.S. 479, 85 S.Ct. 1678, 14 L.Ed.2d 510 (1965).

Brief Fact Summary.

The state of Connecticut passed a law which banned the use of contraceptives. Plaintiffs were found guilty under the law and challenged its constitutionality.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Marriage lies within the zone of privacy, created by several fundamental, constitutional guarantees.

Facts.

Connecticut passed a law banning the use of any drug, medicinal article, or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception. An existing law also stated any person assisting, abetting, counseling, causing, hiring, or commanding another to commit any offense may be prosecuted as if they were the principal offender. Taken together, doctors were prevented from prescribing and dispensing  contraception.

Plaintiffs opened a clinic in New Haven and began to prescribe birth control. Plaintiffs were arrested and convicted in violation of the law stated. Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the law.

Issue.

Whether the statute is an unconstitutional invasion of a married couple’s right to privacy.

Held.

Yes. The statute is an unconstitutional invasion of a married couple’s right to privacy

Dissent.

Justice Black

There is no constitutional right to privacy. The majority is changing the Constitution to include one and I reject that philosophy.

Justice Stewart

We are not asked to say whether we think the law is unwise, or even asinine. Rather, we are asked to hold that it violates the Constitution. It does not. There is no general right of privacy guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, or any other part of the Constitution.

Concurrence.

Justice Goldberg

The right of marital privacy can be traced only to the Ninth and 14th Amendments.

Justice Harlan

I agree with the judgement of reversal. Implicit in the majority’s decision, however, is that that the incorporation doctrine may be used to restrict the reach of Due Process under the 14th Amendment. This is incorrect.

Justice White

The Connecticut law deprives married couples liberty without Due Process of the 14th Amendment. We should decide the case on this ground alone.

Discussion.

Marriage is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in prior decisions. Here too privacy can be inferred from several, fundamental constitutional guarantees, including the First, Third, Fourth, Ninth, and 14th Amendments. A law that forbids the use of contraceptives rather than regulates manufacture or sale seeks to achieve its goals by having a maximum destructive impact on marriage. Such a law cannot stand.

This Court has held the governmental purpose to control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to state regulation may not be achieved by means which sweep unnecessary broadly and thereby invade the area of protected freedoms. Applied here, we would never allow the police to search a place as sacred as marital bedrooms for contraceptives. The law is unconstitutional. Judgement reversed.


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