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Eisenstadt v. Baird


    Citation. Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 92 S. Ct. 1029, 31 L. Ed. 2d 349, 1972 U.S. LEXIS 145 (U.S. Mar. 22, 1972)

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellee was convicted for exhibiting and distributing contraceptive articles under a law that forbid single as opposed to married people from obtaining contraceptives.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Dissimilar treatment between married and unmarried persons is unconstitutional when the dissimilar treatment is unrelated to a rational State objective.


    Facts. Appellee William Baird was convicted under a Massachusetts State law for exhibiting contraceptive articles and for giving a woman a package of Emko vaginal foam. The Massachusetts Supreme Court set aside the conviction for exhibiting contraceptives on the grounds that it violated Appellee’s First Amendment rights, but sustained the conviction for giving away the foam. The law permitted married persons to obtain contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, but forbid single persons from obtaining them.

    Issue. Is there a rational ground for the different treatment of married and unmarried persons under the Massachusetts State law?

    Held. The dissimilar treatment of similarly situated married and unmarried persons under the Massachusetts law violates the Equal Protection Clause.
    First, the deterrence of premarital sex cannot be reasonably regarded as the purpose of the law, because the ban has at best a marginal relating to the proffered objective.

    Second, if health is the rationale of the law, it is both discriminatory and overbroad.

    Third, the right to obtain contraceptives must be the same for married and unmarried individuals.

    Dissent. Chief Justice Burger. The law is a justified exercise of the State’s police power because of the hazards of introducing a foreign substance into the human body.

    Discussion. The right of privacy is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted government intrusion.


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