Griswold v. Connecticut
Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), is a landmark case in the United States about access to contraception. The case involved a Connecticut "Comstock law" that prohibited any person from using "any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception." The court held that the statute was unconstitutional, and that "the clear effect of [the Connecticut law...] is to deny disadvantaged citizens [...] access to medical assistance and up-to-date information in respect to proper methods of birth control." By a vote of 7–2, the Supreme Court invalidated the law on the grounds that it violated the "right to marital privacy", establishing the basis for the right to privacy with respect to intimate practices. This and other cases view the right to privacy as a right to "protect[ion] from governmental intrusion."
|Griswold v. Connecticut|
|Argued March 29, 1965|
Decided June 7, 1965
|Full case name||Estelle T. Griswold and C. Lee Buxton v. Connecticut|
|Citations||381 U.S. 479 (more)|
|Prior history||Defendants convicted, Circuit Court for the Sixth Circuit, 1-2-62; affirmed, Circuit Court, Appellate Division, 1-7-63; affirmed, 200 A.2d 479 (Conn. 1964)|
|A Connecticut law criminalizing the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. Connecticut Supreme Court reversed.|
|Majority||Douglas, joined by Warren, Clark, Brennan, Goldberg|
|Concurrence||Goldberg, joined by Warren, Brennan|
|Dissent||Black, joined by Stewart|
|Dissent||Stewart, joined by Black|
|U.S. Const. amends. I, III, IV, V, IX, XIV; Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53-32, 54–196 (rev. 1958)|
Although the Bill of Rights does not explicitly mention "privacy", Justice William O. Douglas wrote for the majority that the right was to be found in the "penumbras" and "emanations" of other constitutional protections, such as the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment. Douglas wrote, "Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship." Justice Arthur Goldberg wrote a concurring opinion in which he used the Ninth Amendment in support of the Supreme Court's ruling. Justice Byron White and Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote concurring opinions in which they argued that privacy is protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Griswold v. Connecticut originated as a prosecution under the Connecticut Comstock Act of 1873. The law made it illegal to use "any drug, medicinal article, or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception(...)”. Violators could be “(...) fined not less than fifty dollars or imprisoned not less than sixty days nor more than one year or be both fined and imprisoned." By the 1950s, Massachusetts and Connecticut were the only two states that still had such statutes, although they were almost never enforced.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, physicians in the United States largely avoided the publication of any material related to birth control, even when they often recommended or at least gave advice regarding it to their married patients. Then in 1914, Margaret Sanger openly challenged the public consensus against contraception. She influenced the Connecticut Birth Control League (CBCL) and helped to develop the eventual concept of the Planned Parenthood clinics.
The first Planned Parenthood clinic in Connecticut opened in 1935 in Hartford. It provided services to women who had no access to a gynecologist, including information about artificial contraception and other methods to plan the growth of their families. Several clinics were opened in Connecticut over the following years, including the Waterbury clinic that led to the legal dispute. In 1939, this clinic was compelled to enforce the 1879 anti-contraception law on poor women patients. This caught the attention of the CBCL leaders, who remarked on the importance of birth control for cases in which the lives of the patients depended upon it.
During the 1940s, several cases arose from the provision of contraception by the Waterbury clinic, leading to legal challenges to the constitutionality of the Comstock law, but these failed on technical grounds. In Tileston v. Ullman (1943), a doctor and mother challenged the law on the grounds that a ban on contraception could, in certain sexual situations, threaten the lives and well-being of patients. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on the grounds that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue on behalf of his patients. Yale School of Medicine gynecologist C. Lee Buxton and his patients brought a second challenge to the law in Poe v. Ullman (1961). The Supreme Court again dismissed the appeal, on the grounds that the case was not ripe: the plaintiffs had not been charged or threatened with prosecution, so there was no actual controversy for the Court to resolve.
The polemic around Poe led to the appeal in Griswold v. Connecticut, primarily based on the dissent of Justice John Marshall Harlan II in Poe, one of the most cited dissents in Supreme Court history.
(T)he full scope of the liberty guaranteed by the Due Process Clause cannot be found in or limited by the precise terms of the specific guarantees elsewhere provided in the Constitution. This 'liberty' is not a series of isolated points pricked out in terms of the taking of property; the freedom of speech, press, and religion; the right to keep and bear arms; the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; and so on. It is a rational continuum which, broadly speaking, includes a freedom from all substantial arbitrary impositions and purposeless restraints.
- — Justice John Marshall Harlan II, dissent in Poe v. Ullman.
He argued, foremost, that the Supreme Court should have heard the case rather than dismissing it. Thereafter, he indicated his support for a broad interpretation of the due process clause. On the basis of this interpretation, Harlan concluded that the Connecticut statute violated the Constitution.
After Poe was handed down on June 1961, the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut (PPLC) decided to challenge the law again. Estelle T. Griswold served on the PPLC as Executive Director from 1954 to 1965. Struggling through legal battles against birth control restrictions in Connecticut, Griswold and PPLC made an initial effort to financially support women who wanted contraceptives to bus to cities in New York and Rhode Island. PPLC Executive Director Estelle Griswold and Dr. Buxton (PPLC medical volunteer), opened a birth control clinic in New Haven, Connecticut, "thus directly challeng[ing] the state law." The clinic opened on November 1, 1961, and that same day received its first ten patients and dozens of appointment requests from married women who wanted birth control advice and prescriptions. Griswold and Buxton were arrested, tried, found guilty, and fined $100 each. The conviction was upheld by the Appellate Division of the Circuit Court, and by the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Court's decision on relationship with the right to privacyEdit
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Griswold appealed her conviction to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the Connecticut statute was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which reads that "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). By a 7–2 majority, on June 7, 1965 the Supreme Court concluded that the Connecticut statute was unconstitutional.
Justice William O. Douglas, writing for the majority of the court, recognized the right to privacy, even though not enumerated in the Bill of Rights, is found in the "penumbras" and "emanations" of other constitutional protections, such as the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment, or the freedom of association clause of the First Amendment. The right to privacy is seen as a right to "protect[ion] from governmental intrusion." Justice Arthur Goldberg wrote a concurring opinion in which he used the Ninth Amendment in support of the Supreme Court's ruling, reasoning that the right of privacy was retained by the people. Justice Byron White and Justice John Marshall Harlan II also wrote concurring opinions in which they argued that privacy is protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Justices Hugo Black and Potter Stewart wrote dissenting opinions. Justice Black argued that the right to privacy is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. Furthermore, he criticized the interpretations of the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments by his fellow justices. Justice Stewart called the Connecticut statute "an uncommonly silly law" but argued that it was nevertheless constitutional.
The final decision of the court was later used in other cases related to sexual practices and other personal, often considered private, decisions for the American citizens.
Precedent for later casesEdit
Later decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court extended the principles of Griswold beyond its particular facts.
Right to birth control for unmarried couples, 1972Edit
Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) extended its holding to unmarried couples, whereas the "right of privacy" in Griswold was said to only apply to marital relationships. The argument in Eisenstadt was that it was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to deny unmarried couples the right to use contraception when married couples did have that right (under Griswold). Writing for the majority, Justice Brennan wrote that Massachusetts could not enforce the law against married couples because of Griswold v. Connecticut, so the law worked "irrational discrimination" if not extended to unmarried couples as well.
Right to abortion for any woman, 1973Edit
The reasoning and language of both Griswold and Eisenstadt were cited in the concurring opinion by Associate Justice Potter Stewart in support of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). The decision in Roe struck down a Texas law that criminalized aiding a woman in getting an abortion. The Court ruled that this law was a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Abortion became legalized for any woman for any reason, up through the first trimester, with possible restrictions for maternal health in the second trimester (the midpoint of which is the approximate time of fetal viability). In the third trimester of pregnancy, abortion is potentially illegal with exception for the mother's health, which the court defined broadly in Doe v. Bolton.
Right to contraception for juveniles at least 16 years of age, 1977Edit
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Right to homosexual relations, 2003Edit
Lawrence v. Texas (2003) struck down a Texas sodomy law that prohibited certain forms of intimate sexual contact between members of the same sex. Without stating a standard of review in the majority opinion, the court overruled Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), declaring that the "Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual." Justice O'Connor, who wrote a concurring opinion, framed it as an issue of rational basis review. Justice Kennedy's majority opinion, based on the liberty interest protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, stated that the Texas anti-sodomy statute touched "upon the most private human conduct, sexual behavior, and in the most private of places, the home," and attempted to "control a personal relationship that ... is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished." Thus, the Court held that adults are entitled to participate in private, consensual sexual conduct. While the opinion in Lawrence was framed in terms of the right to liberty, Kennedy described the "right to privacy" found in Griswold as the "most pertinent beginning point" in the evolution of the concepts embodied in Lawrence.
Right to same-sex marriage, 2015Edit
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