Griswold v. Connecticut

381 U.S. 479 (1965)
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The Appellants, who had opened a birth control clinic, were convicted under the General Statutes of Connecticut of 1958 (the Act) as accessories in crime for providing information and medical advice on contraception and prescribing contraceptives to married individuals. The Act criminalized the use of “any drug, medicinal article or instrument” by any person “for the purpose of preventing conception.”

The conviction was affirmed by the Appellate Division of the Circuit Court. The Appellants appealed, arguing that the statute violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Court held that a right to privacy was protected under the Constitution. It held that “zones of privacy” were created by “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights” that had “penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees.” These guarantees included the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure within the Fourth Amendment; the right of association within the First Amendment; and the self-incrimination clause within the Fifth Amendment. The Court also noted that the Ninth Amendment establishes that the “enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

The Court held that the Act’s criminalization of the use of contraceptives was unconstitutional. It was an infringement on the right to privacy because it impacted directly on the “intimate relation of husband and wife and their physician's role in one aspect of that relation.” The Court held that in forbidding the use of contraceptives rather than regulating their manufacture or sale, the Act sought to achieve its purpose through means that had a “maximum destructive impact upon the relationship.” Such means could extend to allowing police to search the precincts of marital bedrooms for signs of the use of contraceptives. The Court held that the Act thus swept “unnecessarily broadly” and thereby invaded the “area of protected freedoms.”

“The 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. Such a law cannot stand in light of the familiar principle, so often applied by this Court, that a ‘governmental purpose to control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to state regulation may not be achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected freedoms.’ [] 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.” 381 U.S., p. 485-86.

“We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights—older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.” 381 U.S., p. 486.