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Appellant: Grisworld, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood League (PPL) of Connecticut
Buxton, licensed physician, professor Yale Medical School, Medical Director PPL New Haven
Appellee: Coonecticut
Argued: March 29 – 30, 1965
Decided: June 7, 1965
• Convicted as accessories in Connecticut trial court and fined $100 each
• Affirmed by Intermediate Appellate Court and State’s highest court
• Appealed for reversal to the U.S. Supreme Court
• Grisworld and Buxton gave information, instruction and medical advice to married persons as to the
means of preventing conception
• Appellants examined wife and prescribed best contraceptive device/material for her use
Issue: Constitutionality of these Connecticut statutes:
a. Sec. 53-32
“Any person who uses any drug or medicinal 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 be both fined and imprisoned.”
b. Sec. 54-196
“Any person who assists, abets, counsels, causes, hires or commands another to commit any
offense may be prosecuted and punished as if he were the principal offender.”
Held: Reversed
Rationale: (Douglas)
• Appellants have standing to raise constitutional rights of married people with whom they had a
professional relationship. Since this is an aiding and abetting statute, they can assert that offense
they’re charged with is not a crime.
a. Truax v. Raich: employee permitted to assert rights of employer
b. Pierce v. Society of Sisters: statute forbids parents from sending children to private schools,
owners of private schools were entitled to assert rights of potential pupils and their parents
c. Barrows v. Jackson: white defendant asserted rights of prospective Negro purchasers to equal
protection in a covenant
• Statutes are unconstitutional because they abridge the Right to Privacy of married persons
a. Due Process Clause of Fourteenth Amendment – “All persons born or naturalized in the United
States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state
wherein they reside. 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 within its jurisdiction the
equal protection of the laws.” - makes other rights available to people & prohibits states from
depriving people of their rights mandated by US constitution
b. involves intimate relation of husband and wife and their physician’s role in that relation; though
not mentioned explicitly in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, this freedom of association
(social, legal, economic benefit not political and it is a form of expression of opinion) is implied
in the First Amendment; peripheral rights make the specific rights more secure
i. Pierce v. Society of Sisters: right to educate one’s child as one chooses (1st & 14th
ii. Meyer v. Nebraska: right to study any particular subj or foreign language
iii. Martin v. Struthers: right to distribute, receive, read
iv. Wieman v. New Hampshire: freedom of inquiry, thought & to teach
v. NAACP v. Alabama: freedom to associate and privacy in one’s associations – peripheral
of 1st amendment
vi. Schware v. Board of Bar Examiners: lawyer can’t be barred from practice just
because he was once a Communist Party member since it doesn’t prove bad moral
c. Third Amendment – prohibits quartering of soldiers “in any house” in time of peace w/o owner’s
d. Fourth Amendment – right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers & effects
against unreasonable searches & seizures
*Mapp v. Ohio: rt. To privacy, no less important than any other rt. Carefully & particularly
reserved to the people
e. Fifth Amendment – Self-Incrimination clause (gov’t may not force anyone to surrender to one’s
*Boyd v. United States – c & d protection against all governmental invasions of the sanctity of
man’s home & privacies of life
f. Ninth Amendment – enumeration of certain rights not to be construed to deny or disparage
other rights retained by people
g. Statute can have a maximum destructive impact upon the relationship by forbidding use of
contraceptives. Repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship.
h. NAACP v. Alabama: 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
i. “Marriage…intimate to the degree of being sacred. Marriage 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.”
GOLDBERG, joined by CJ & BRENNAN, concurring
1. Right of marital privacy supported by court decisions & ninth amendment
a. Snyder v. Massachusetts: liberties rooted in traditions & conscience of people are ranked as
b. Framers of Constitution believed that there are additional fundamental rights protected from
governmental infringement, thus the 9th amendment. Made to address worries of bill not broad
enough to cover all essential rights and might mean the denial of other rights not mentioned
c. Right of privacy in marriage is a basic and fundamental right deeply rooted in our society
d. In determining fundamental rights, judges cannot decide using personal & private notions, they
should look at the traditions and collective conscience of the people.
e. Bates v. Little Rock: “…significant encroachment upon personal liberty, State may prevail only
upon showing a subordinating interest which is compelling.”
• Connecticut statute made to discourage extra-marital relations
• But contraceptives are available for prevention of disease.
• State has statutes prohibiting adultery and fornication which are sufficient thus there is no need
for a statute that would invade the area of protected freedoms.
HARLAN, concurring
Concurs with reversal of judgment but does not agree that 14th amendment imposes upon states all
requirements of Bill of Rights (incorporation doctrine). The Due Process clause stands on its own. Limiting it
would prevent other judges from interpreting vague contours of Due Process Clause.
WHITE, concurring
BLACK joined by STEWART, dissenting
• Disagrees that evil qualities of the law make it unconstitutional
• Defendants admittedly engaged w/others in planned course of conduct to help people violate the law.
• In saying that privacy is implied in other rights, would be similar to limiting these rights as though they
were only made to protect the right to privacy. Stick to simple language used by framers.
• Government has right to invade privacy unless prohibited by some specific constitutional provision.
• Invalidating statute on basis of 9th & 14th amendments-gives court power to invalidate laws it finds
arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable or oppressive; has no rational or justifying purpose; offensive to a
sense of fairness & justice on the basis of their own appraisal what laws are unwise or unnecessary (or
what fundamental rights are & what traditions rooted in the collective conscience of the people are).
This task should be left to the legislative body especially since judiciary has no supervisory veto over
the legislature. Otherwise, this would jeopardize separation of governmental powers.
• Amendments should be made through the elected representatives of the people, approved by the
people. (unless in a clear & urgent case when court can interfere)
STEWART joined by BLACK, dissenting
• Issue here is whether statute violates US constitution and not the opinion of the judges re: statute
• No claim that appellants were denied due process in trial thus 14th amendment is not applicable
• 1st, 3rd, 4th & 5th amendments do not invalidate the statute.
• 9th amendment: simply said that all rights and powers not given to the federal government, are
retained by the people and individual states & it doesn’t mean that federal court can annul laws passed
by elected representatives
• court cannot decide on basis of community standards but based on Constitution and laws of the US
• constitutional way of amending or repealing laws would be through the elected representatives