Griswold v. Connecticut appealed to the Supreme Court on errors of the state court of Connecticut. This case deals with the right to prescribe the use of birth control to a married female. This action is found unconstitutional under the state laws, but this law invades a person’s rights under the constitution. Here the problem evolves and must be decided upon in the courts.
The appellant Griswold is an Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut (Janosik, 1035). Appellant Buxton is a licensed physician and a professor at Yale Medical School who served as Medical Director for the League at its center in New Haven. This center was opened for ten days in November of 1961, until the appellants were arrested (Rice, 187).
The appellants were tried in the state court and decided that the state laws contradicted several rights in the constitution. The two Connecticut laws state:
“Any person who uses any drug, medical article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception shall be fined not less than fifty dollars or imprisoned not less than sixty days nor more than one year or both be fined and imprisoned (Rice, 187).”
“Any person who resist, abets, counsels, causes, hires, or commands another to commit any offense may be prosecuted and punished as if he were the principal offender (Rice, 188).”
In the Connecticut court decision, the appellants were found guilty as accessories and fined one hundred dollars each, against the claim that the accessory ordinance as applied, violated several amendments. The Connecticut statues forbidding use of contraceptives violates the right of birth control to married persons which is guaranteed through the Bill of Rights in the Constitution for American citizens (Rice, 188).
The appellants are guaranteed fundamental rights through the Constitution to prescribe birth control to married people if they are involved in a legal relationship. Certainly, the companion in crime should not have worries that he or she will be charged with assisting in birth control, which is not constitutionally a crime (Janosik, 170-171). This is created by several basic constitutional guarantees. It is the invasion of his right to personal security, personal liberty, and private property; therefore, the state laws cannot stand and invade the area of his protected freedoms (Dye, 506).
The Supreme Court’s decision was divided seven to two. The majority found it unconstitutional due to intruding on the rights of privacy to marriage. Even though the rights of privacy is not specifically stated in the Bill of Rights, it is a concept of liberty which is stated in the First Amendment (Chase, 334). The appellants are also protected with the Due Process Clause (a law that is a basic principle in the American legal system that requires fairness in the government’s dealing with people). The Fifth and Fourteenth amendments protect certain fundamental rights without state or federal government intervention (Chase, 335). The entire purpose of the Constitution is to specifically state guarantees of rights to all the people. It is odd that the Constitution does not include fundamental rights of protection to privacy of marriage. The Ninth Amendment can pick up and protect issues under marriage. It also recognizes and protects from abridgment by the government, and it provides the right of liberty (Rice, 188).
The Connecticut birth-control law trespasses on personal liberty, but the state doesn’t show that the law serves any single interest which is forcing, or mandatory to succeed in tolerating the state policy. The state expresses an opinion that there is some relation between the ordinance and what is a proper subject of the state’s concern. Its purpose was to discourage extra-marital relationships (Janosik, 1171). Through this, that banned the use of birth-control devices by married people (Janosik, 1177). It helps prevent the use of the drug in extra-marital relations. The state wanted to protect marital faithfulness, but it could have stated the law more specifically so that it did not force upon the privacy of all married couples (Rice, 191).
Adultery, homosexuality and other sexual intimacies are forbidden by the state, but the closeness of married couples is essential for the future to be carried out (Janosik, 1176). The marriage relation is a sacred part of the American culture: therefore, the state must allow marital privacy in every age. It must acknowledge a marriage and the personal inherit of it. Connecticut cannot constitutionally abbreviate the basic right, which is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment from the intervention by the states (Rice, 188).
The Connecticut anti-contraceptive law forbids all married couples the right to use birth control devices, regardless if their use is dictated by family planning, health, or even of life itself. The law even prohibits the right from doctors to help their patients in their best interest (Rice, 191).
As in all cases everything has two sides. The second side, the dissenting opinion, states there is liberty, but it is limited to an extent (Rice, 188). They also feel that the Connecticut statute is unconstitutional on the belief that the law is a good policy to behold. The persons that are for the state law do believe that doctors have the right to perform a physical examination to adult females, but advising them on the type of contraceptive that would be satisfactory for their benefit is against the law (Janosik, 1170). They feel that stretching the First Amendment through the Elastic Clause to protect the rights of the defendants is wrong (Chase, 399). Since the right of privacy in a marriage relationship is not specifically stated in the constitution then the defendants do not have any standing. The minority opinions also feel that the word privacy is too broad, and it could be shortened and easily interpreted. Their feeling of privacy is important, but the government has all rights to invade it as long as it does not cross into a specific constitutional guarantee. Therefore, they do not agree with the court’s decision and reasons it prevails for stating the Connecticut law unconstitutional (Janosik, 1170).
During the Supreme Court’s trial period they discussed an issue about the right of privacy being constitutional. There are no laws that put constitutional provisions forbidding any law to neglect the right of privacy. Respectively, in the constitution there are specific constitutional provisions which are designed to safeguard certain privacies at various times and places (Janosik, 1177).
Being one of three branches in our American government system, the Supreme Court, has the power to override federal and state laws. Yes, this does take away the power from Congress and the states to make laws they find beneficial (Dye, 497-498). The Supreme Court has used the Ninth Amendment (which state rights retained by the people) and the Fourteenth Amendment (citizenship, equal protection of the laws by the states, and due process of the states) to do away with the laws that violate the fundamental principles of privacy. At this point in the court system there is no defined way the court can use to determine each case from being constitutional or unconstitutional (Chase, 399).
The constitution is changed to conform with new times. It is the court’s duty to take charge and make those changes. The framers of the constitution knew the need for change and provided for it. It is changed by amendments through proposals and ratification processes. Many experts believe the Constitution should be treated as a living, breathing document (Dye, 86)!
Anyone who feels that a marriage relationship should be beyond the reach of a state law forbidding the use of contraceptives also believes that the state law is unconstitutional too (Rice, 189). In 1965, it was viewed by a poll showing that forty-six percent of the people in this country thought birth control should be taught in the schools. The Supreme Court used this proportion to rely on in declaring that the Connecticut law infringed on their fundamental rights. When this law was found inappropriate, it went against what the majority in Connecticut expressed through their representatives (Janosik, 998).
In the course of the Supreme Court’s opinion it refers to six amendments of the constitution:
First Amendment – Freedom of Religion, Speech, Assembly, Press and Petition
Third Amendment – Quartering of Soldiers
Fourth Amendment – Searches and Seizure
Fifth Amendment – Grand Juries, Self-Incrimination, Double Jeopardy, Due Process and Eminent Domain
Ninth Amendment – Rights Retain by the People
Fourteenth Amendment – Citizenship, Due Process and Equal Protection of the Laws
These determined why the Connecticut laws were unconstitutional. However, the Court does not specifically say which of these Amendments it thinks the Connecticut laws infringe on (Rice, 190).
What provision makes the Connecticut law invalid under the Constitution? The Supreme Court determined it was the right of privacy given in the fundamental guarantees of the Constitution to American citizens (Janosik, 998b). This decision made the Connecticut lawmakers pass a bill repealing the birth control statute. The Supreme Court does not specify state to what extent the constitutional right of privacy should extend to (Janosik, 1766).
Since 1879, Connecticut has had a law, which prevented the use of any type of contraceptives. I believe the use of contraceptives in a marital relationship should be a personal and private choice. Every person has the right of privacy to choose what benefits him or her most. Since there is a large variation of individual morals, ethical and religious backgrounds, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. The methods of contraceptives should be readily available to all adults, so that an individual or private choice can be made. The Supreme Court ruling was an excellent decision on letting contraceptives become a private choice in an honest marital situation.
Chase, Harold W. “Griswold v. Connecticut.” West’s Encyclopedia of American Law. Vol. 7. Minnesota: West Group, 1998.
Dye, Thomas R. Politics in America. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1997.
Janosik, Robert J. “Griswold v. Connecticut.” Encyclopedia of the American Judicial System. Vol. III and I. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1987.
Rice, Arnold S. The Warren Court, 1954-1969: “Griswold v. Connecticut.” Vol. 8. Connecticut: Grolier Educational Corp., 1995.