Facts Of The Case
In 1960, several states had legislation that limited the advertisement and
selling of contraception (usually passed sometime during the late 1800s). Some
states, including Connecticut and Massachusetts, have entirely forbidden the use
of birth control.
In 1879, a Connecticut statute made the use of contraceptives a criminal
offence. The use of contraceptives was punishable by a fine of $50 and/or a jail
sentence of up to one year. Furthermore, the law maintained that any person who
assists, abets, counsels, causes, hires or commands another to commit any
offense may be prosecuted and punished as if he were the principal offender.
Although this law was created in 1879, it was rarely implemented.
In partnership with Estelle Griswold, head of Planned Parenthood in Connecticut,
a gynaecologist at the Yale School of Medicine, C. Lee Buxton, opened a birth
control clinic in New Haven. The executive and medical directors of the Planned
Parenthood League of Connecticut were arrested and charged with providing
married people with knowledge, training, and medical advice on methods of
preventing conception. Appellants have been found guilty as accomplices and
fined $100 each. The appellants appealed because the 14th Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution was violated by the accessory law as applied.
They were convicted
in the Circuit Court for the Sixth Circuit in New Haven, Connecticut. they aimed
to use the clinic before the Supreme Court to contest the constitutionality of
the Connecticut legislation under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Appellate
Division of the Circuit Court affirmed, and its judgment was affirmed by the
Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut. The case was elevated on appeal to the
Supreme Court of the United States.
Citation: 381 U.S. 479, 85 S. Ct. 1678 (1965)
Argued on: March 29, 1965 -
Decided on: June 7, 1965 -
Court: Supreme Court of the United States
Judgement: 7-2 majority decision written by Justice William O. Douglas
Issues Before The Court
The case of Griswold v. Connecticut
has put forth a significant issue before the
Court, and that was:
Does the Constitution safeguard the right to marital privacy from state
limitations on the freedom of a couple to be consulted on the use of
A holdover from the Comstock period was the law in
question, but Connecticut decided to enforce it in the case of Estelle
Estelle Griswold and Dr C. Lee Buxton argued that the 14th Amendment, which
says, No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges
or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any
person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any
person the equal protection of the laws (Amendment 14, Section 1), conflicts
with the Connecticut statute prohibiting birth control use.
Judgment Of The Case
Griswold and Buxton challenged their conviction, which the Connecticut court
upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided to review their case in 1965.
Estelle Griswold and Dr Buxton argued their case in front of the Supreme Court
on March 29, 1965. The trial was presided over by nine judges.
On June 7, 1965, the case was resolved, and in a 7-2 opinion written by Justice
William O. Douglas, the Supreme Court ruled that the statute violated the right
to marital privacy and could not be enforced against married persons.
Furthermore, the Court ruled that the fundamental right to privacy secured the
right for married couples to make their own contraceptive decisions.
Justice Douglas argued that the specific protections of the Bill of Rights have
, created by emanations from these guarantees that help give them
life and opinion.
In other terms, when enforced against the States by the
Fourteenth Amendment, the 'spirit'
of the First Amendment (free speech), Third
Amendment (prohibition on the compulsory quartering of troops), Fourth Amendment
(freedom from searches and seizures), Fifth Amendment (freedom from
self-incrimination), and Ninth Amendment (other rights), creates a general
right to privacy that may not be unduly breached.
He wrote that the penumbra of the Bill of Rights lies inside the right to
marital privacy. Justice Goldberg wrote in a concurrent opinion that the marital
union's right to privacy is a personal right 'held by the people within the
scope of the Ninth Amendment. Through ensuring that privacy is protected by the
Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause, Justice Harlan II and Justice White
both agreed to Justice Douglas.
In preserving marital privacy, Justice Byron R.
White also concentrated on the role of due process. Furthermore, as it concerns
the acts of married couples, this right to privacy is fundamental
is of such a nature that it cannot be refused without breaching certain
fundamental values of liberty and justice, which are at the heart of our civil
and political institutions.
Since the use of contraceptives by a married couple
constitutes a fundamental
right, Connecticut must demonstrate to the Court
that its statute is compelling and necessary
to override that right (i.e.,
the strict scrutiny test). Since Connecticut was unable to prove this, as
applied, the law was struck down.
Other justices disagreed with Justice Douglas about whether such a fundamental
resides in the Constitution while agreeing that marital privacy is a
fundamental right and that the Connecticut law should be struck down. Justice
Arthur Goldberg stated in his claim that the Ninth Amendment, which states that
the Bill of Rights does not exhaust all the rights of persons, enables the Court
to find the fundamental right to marital privacy
without having to base it on
a particular constitutional amendment.
However, with all their differences, the
majority decision in Griswold v. Connecticut
that the right to privacy
in addition to being substantive.
In West Coast Hotel v. Parrish
(1937), the Court rejected the notion that substantive rights
covered by the Constitution, i.e., that such actions are protected from
government intervention that is not expressly stated in the Bill of Rights. In
Griswold, however, it ruled that in non-economic fields such as substantive rights
right to privacy exist even though they do not exist in economic practices such
as the right to contract.
Justice Hugo Black and Justice Potter Stewart also filed dissenting opinions
explaining that, unless there is a particular constitutional clause banning such
invasion, the government has the right to invade a person's privacy. Justice
Black argued that in the Constitution, the right to privacy is not found
anywhere. Also, The Connecticut bill was described by Justice Stewart as an
uncommonly silly law but believed it was nevertheless lawful.
Rationale Behind The Judgement
A Connecticut statute that this Supreme Court ruling reversed restricted
contraceptive therapy and the use of abortion. The ruling agreed that the
Constitution would not expressly guarantee one's general right to privacy;
however, penumbras or privacy zones were established by the Bill of Rights under
which the government should not intervene.
In the First, Second, Fourth, Sixth,
and Ninth Amendments, the Court held that the right to marital privacy was
inherent. In the marital relation, the ruling further defined the right to
privacy to be an inalienable right. If characterized in this manner, this right
to marital privacy is perceived to be one of the constitutional freedoms
shielded from intrusion by states by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Connecticut
statute, however, violated the right to marital privacy and was considered to be
While the Griswold v. Connecticut decision legalized abortion, this right was
only available to married couples. Therefore, for those who were not married,
birth control use was however banned. The right to use contraceptives was not
provided to unmarried adults until the Supreme Court of Eisenstadt v.
ruled in 1972
The right to privacy was only for married couples, as defined by Griswold v.
Connecticut. The petitioner claimed in the Eisenstadt v. Baird
case that denying
a single individual the ability to use birth control while married individuals
could use contraceptives was a breach of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal
The Court explained how the Fourth and Fifth Amendments together shield the home
of a person and other private areas of his life from government invasions
It acknowledged the probability that statute enforcement would allow for such
clear-cut constitutional breaches as digging through the bedroom of a married
couple to find birth control. The Court held that the legislation at issue was
broad in that it has a maximum destructive impact
a marital partnership that is squarely within the privacy area established by
the Constitution's First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
The ruling of Griswold v. Connecticut has helped lay the groundwork for much of
the sexual rights now permitted by the Constitution. After that decision, in
several court trials, the Supreme Court has invoked the right to privacy. It
opened the way for the reproductive privacy and liberties that today are in
existence. Birth control use was either prohibited or outlawed before this case.
The opinion of the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut
beginning of a period of reform in the United States in respect of sexual and
reproductive rights. The landmark decision in the Griswold v. Connecticut
established, for the first time, a constitutional right to privacy
regarding reproductive decisions, which paved the way for the legalization of
birth control for unmarried couples, ruling that the states had no right to ban
contraception for married couples. It implied the Court's opinion that persons
should be protected from the state's undue intervention.
Birth control has had a dramatic effect on individuals and communities in the
United States of America, due in part to the verdict in Griswold v. Connecticut
and the benefits provided by the case, enabling people to invest in their lives
and their jobs and giving them time to prepare for their families. Access to
birth control has since enabled women around the board to lead healthy lives.
The Court ruled that the right to secrecy was found to be a valid right to use
birth control methods. So, the statute was found to be unconstitutional. It held
that marriage lies within the privacy zone created by certain simple
constitutional protections. The law intended to reach their objectives by
prohibiting contraception rather than restricting their manufacturing or selling
by imposing a maximal destructive effect on that relationship.
Thus, such a statute cannot stand in the light of the familiar fact that it is
not practicable to accomplish a legislative intent to regulate or deter
practices legally, subject to state regulation by way of overly systematic
sweeping and thus breaching the area of safe liberty. The whole thought of
allowing the police to scan the holy precincts of marital bedrooms for apparent
signs of the use of contraception is despicable to the conceptions of privacy
surrounding the marriage partnership.
- U.S. Const. Amend. XIV
- West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379, 57 S. Ct. 578, 81 L. Ed.
- Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972)