Griswold et al. v. Connecticut
Decided on June 7, 1965; 381 US 479


In stating a "right to privacy," the Court determined that a married couple's decision to use birth
control was a personal decision and not subject to government regulation.

 

I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed:  Privacy, contraception 

B. Legal Question Presented: 

Is the Connecticut statute which prohibits the use of "any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception" unconstitutional?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

Appellants, the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and its medical director, a licensed physician, were convicted as accessories for giving married persons information and medical advice on how to prevent conception and, following examination, prescribing a contraceptive device or material for the wife's use.

A Connecticut statute makes it a crime for any person to use any drug or article to prevent conception. Appellants claimed that the accessory statute as applied violated the Fourteenth Amendment. An intermediate appellate court and the State's highest court affirmed the judgment. 

On appeal the Supreme Court reversed.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable

C. The Arguments:

ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable
Appellant physicians have no standing to raise constitutional claims of other persons, not party to this suit. This statute is within the police powers of the state, and there is no power to practice medicine that outweighs the police power to regulate the health, safety and morals of the public. The courts may not question the wisdom of legislatures.

III. AMICI CURIAE:

ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal, were filed by Whitney North Seymour and Eleanor M. Fox for Dr. John M. Adams et al.; by Morris L. Ernst, Harriet F. Pilpel and Nancy F. Wechsler for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.; by Alfred L. Scanlon for the Catholic Council on Civil Liberties, and by Rhoda H. Karpatkin, Melvin L. Wulf and Jerome E. Caplan for the American Civil Liberties Union et al.

Thomas I. Emerson argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs was Catherine G. Roraback.

Joseph B. Clark argued the cause for appellee. With him on the brief was Julius Maretz.


IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

The First Amendment is extended against the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, and includes the right to privacy. Consistent with the First Amendment, a state may not reduce the sphere of available knowledge, as it attempted to do here. The right of association is a protection from governmental intrusion of privacy. This freedom of association guaranteed by the First Amendment which creates a sphere of privacy, at least in marriage, makes the Connecticut statute unconstitutional.

The Right to Privacy stems from the right of association guaranteed by the First Amendment, the Third Amendment prohibition against forced quartering of soldiers, the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure, and the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

The U.S. supreme Court stated that "[t]he present case... concerns a relationship lying within the zone of privacy created by several 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 upon that relationship."

The Supreme Court found that "the Connecticut statute forbidding use of contraceptives violated the right of marital privacy which is within the penumbra of specific guarantees of the Bill of Rights" and reversed the judgment of the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors.

Justice Vote: 7 Pro vs. 2 Con
  • Douglas, W. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • White, B. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Harlan, J. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Warren, E. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Brennan, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Clark, T. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Goldberg, A. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Stewart, P. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Black, H. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the Judgment of the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors; the U.S. Supreme Court reversed in a 7-2 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.