Griswold v. Connecticut Summary
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood of Connecticut and its medical director, Griswold. Planned Parenthood and Griswold had counseled and otherwise aided married couples in the use of contraceptives. The Supreme Court concluded that the law that had resulted in criminal liability for the appellants violated the right to privacy included in the Fourth Amendment as well as the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In its holding, the Court recognized a “right to marital privacy”.
Key Players in Griswold v. Connecticut
- 1Appellant: Planned Parenthood of Connecticut and its medical director, who informed couples about contraception and prescribed contraceptives to them.
- 2Appellee: The state of Connecticut, which had enacted a law making the use of contraceptives illegal.
Griswold v. Connecticut Brief
The central themes of this case are use of contraceptives, the right to privacy included in the Fourth Amendment, and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Griswold v. Connecticut Facts
Planned Parenthood and its medical director advised married couples on contraceptive practices and options and prescribed contraceptives to married couples at its New Haven center. Connecticut had passed a law making it illegal to use a contraceptive “drug, medicinal article, or instrument”. The state also included “aiding and abetting” and status as an accessory as bases for criminal liability in its criminal statutes. State authorities caught the local Planned Parenthood and its medical director, Griswold, counseling and otherwise assisting married couples in the use of contraceptives. Connecticut convicted Planned Parenthood and the medical director based on a theory of accessory liability under the Connecticut anti-contraception statute.
The Griswold v. Connecticut Decision
The outcome of the case was a ruling that the state law making the use of contraceptives illegal violated the Fourth Amendment right to privacy. It noted that government inquiries into the use of contraceptives by a married couple were equivalent to such obvious and “repulsive government invasions” as rooting through someone’s physical private property.
The Court started its analysis by establishing that Planned Parenthood and Griswold had standing to defend the constitutional rights of their married patients in court based on the appellants’ “professional” or “confidential relationship” with the patients. It then described how the case invoked legal issues related to various amendments to the Constitution. It noted how the First Amendment protects "freedom to associate and privacy in one's associations” and how Planned Parenthood, along with its physicians and patients, could be seen to benefit from the “zone of privacy” created for associations by the First Amendment. The Court outlined how, taken together, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments protect a citizen’s home and other private areas of his life from “government invasions”. It noted the possibility that enforcement of the statute would allow for such clear-cut constitutional violations as rooting through a married couple’s bedroom to find birth control. The Court stated that the regulation at issue was overbroad in that it had a “maximum destructive impact” on a relationship—marriage—that stands firmly within the “zone of privacy” created by the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.
In applying the law to the facts, the Court characterized the law as equivalent to an invasion of the “sacred precincts of marital bedrooms”. The Court’s ruling noted that the right to privacy in the specific the area of marriage had a special status as an “association for a noble purpose” and described a marital right to privacy. The Court also deemed the law to be a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as a restriction on the specific, enumerated liberties included in the Bill of Rights.
The concurring opinion found that the law violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it restricted “fundamental liberties” which were implied by the Ninth Amendment. Specifically, the concurring opinion noted that the Ninth Amendment protects rights which are not explicitly enumerated in amendments one through eight. It also described the purportedly “compelling” state interest which Connecticut claims might be served by anti-contraception laws: preventing infidelity. The concurrence detailed how the state claimed that the possibility of extra-marital conception discourages people from infidelity, but the concurrence noted that an outright ban on contraceptives was too broad of a measure to address that narrow interest and questioned whether it constituted a compelling state interest altogether.
Key Takeaways for Law Students
- 1Laws limiting the use of contraceptives violate the Fourth Amendment right to privacy and threaten the sacred “right of marital privacy” as recognized by the Court.
- 2Laws limiting the use of contraceptives violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment either as a restriction on “fundamental liberties” implied by the Ninth Amendment or as a restriction on specific, enumerated liberties included in the Bill of Rights.