On June 7th 1965, married couples in the State of Connecticut received the right to acquire and benefit from contraceptive devises. In a majority decision by the United States Supreme Court, seven out of the nine judges believed that sections 53-32 and 54-196 of the General Statues of Connecticut , violated the right of privacy guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The case set precedence by establishing marital (and later constitutional) privacy, and had notable influence on three later controversial ruling=s in Roe v. Wade (1973), Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and Planned Parenthood of S.E. Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992) . The issue at hand was, and is still, one that still causes debate, wether a state has the authority to restrict the use and sale of contraceptives.
Though it is not contraceptives, anymore, that is at the heart of the abortion debate, this ruling was the first step to the expectation of constitutional privacy. Although marital privacy (and later personal privacy when Eisenstadt v. Baird, 1972, extended the rights to unmarried persons ), was at the heart of this ruling, there are many other compelling arguments in ruling this law unconstitutional. To examine these other points, including; freedom of speech/ press, right of association, privacy of the person, due process of law and the violation in restricting education, we must first have an basic understanding of the case itself. The case rests on the violation of Griswold (the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut and Buxton (the Medical director for the Center) of the Connecticut Statute that states : (53-32) 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 be both fined and imprisoned.
(54-196) Any person who assists, abets, counsels, causes, hires or commands another to commit any offense may be prosecuted and punished as if were the principal offender. Griswold and Buxton opened the clinic in 1961, in New Haven Connecticut, and were shut down ten days later and fined one-hundred dollars each. They appealed their convictions, stating that the law violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Essentially, the clinic operated as a medical advice center, where married persons could get counciling, advice, and instruction on contraception devises. For their advice they charged patients according to their ability to pay. There was, however, a question to wether Griswold could assert the rights of married couples.
But the Supreme Court ruled that she did because under the terms of the statute she could be convicted for offering her services to them and because her relationship with the married couples was a professional one. ACertainly the accessory should have standing to assert that the offense which he is charged with assisting is not, or cannot constitutionally be a crime. This was significant because there had been two earlier challanges to the law, but the Court refused to hear them on grounds that it was not clear if they could be prosecuted (1943, 1961). Nevertheless, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Griswold, and her claim that the state contraceptive law was unconstitutional. However, even those justices that agreed with her argument were not unanimous in their reasons for doing so. Justice Douglas in the opinion of the court: 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 surrounding the marriage relationship..We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights-..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.. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions. In this context the Court agreed that the law was infringing on the privacy of the marriage. They stated Pierce v. Society of Sisters and Meyer v. State of Nebraska , to defend the judgement.
In Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925), the Court upheld that it was up to parental discretion in what school their child should study ; and in Meyer v. State of Nebraska (1923), the right to study a foreign language in school was upheld . In both cases the Court struck down the state laws on the grounds that they violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In short, the Court felt in both cases there was a depravation of a persons property, without due process of law. A..the Due Process Clause protects those liberties that are so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental. In Meyer, the Court stated that the right to marry, have a home and bring up children was a part of the Fourteenth Amendment; Athe right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, ..to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. This is the center of the debate in the Griswold case; the defendants were establishing their right to educate married persons, and the married persons were utilizing their right of privacy, in establishing a family, in choosing to use contraceptive devises.
In the both cases: Athe Meyer and Pierce decisions have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter. Another argument that relates to Griswold in the Pierce and Meyer cases, is the precedent that the restriction of education is unconstitutional. If, as in Meyer and Pierce, people have the right to educate and distribute information, Griswold cannot be punished for the education and distribution of information on contraceptives. In addition, the freedom of speech should prevail in this case, as in the precedent West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnett: Aincludes the right to express ones attitudes or philosophies by members in a group or by affiliation with it by other lawful means. Before we begin to look at the dissenting view of the Court, lets analyze a few other precedents the Court took into account. In, NAACP v. Alabama, NAACP v. Button, and Schare v. Board of Bar Examiners, the court recognized Aprivacy in ones association.