United States Supreme Court – GRISWOLD v. CONNECTICUT(1965) Decision


No. 496

Argued: Decided: June 7, 1965

June 7, 1965 – The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Connecticut law banning contraception. In Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court guaranteed the right to privacy, including freedom from government intrusion into matters of birth control.

Appellants, the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and its medical director, a licensed physician, were convicted as accessories for giving married persons information and medical advice on how to prevent conception and, following examination, prescribing a contraceptive device or material for the wife’s use. A Connecticut statute makes it a crime for any person to use any drug or article to prevent conception. Appellants claimed that the accessory statute as applied violated the Fourteenth Amendment. An intermediate appellate court and the State’s highest court affirmed the judgment. Held:

151 Conn. 544, 200 A. 2d 479, reversed.

Thomas I. Emerson argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs was Catherine G. Roraback.

Joseph B. Clark argued the cause for appellee. With him on the brief was Julius Maretz.

Briefs of amici curiae, urging reversal, were filed by Whitney North Seymour and Eleanor M. Fox for Dr. John M. Adams et al.; by Morris L. Ernst, Harriet F. Pilpel and Nancy F. Wechsler for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.; by Alfred L. Scanlon for the Catholic Council on Civil Liberties, and by Rhoda H. Karpatkin, Melvin L. Wulf and Jerome E. Caplan for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. [381 U.S. 479, 480]  

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellant Griswold is Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. Appellant Buxton is a licensed physician and a professor at the Yale Medical School who served as Medical Director for the League at its Center in New Haven – a center open and operating from November 1 to November 10, 1961, when appellants were arrested.

They gave information, instruction, and medical advice to married persons as to the means of preventing conception. They examined the wife and prescribed the best contraceptive device or material for her use. Fees were usually charged, although some couples were serviced free.

The statutes whose constitutionality is involved in this appeal are 53-32 and 54-196 of the General Statutes of Connecticut (1958 rev.). The former provides:

Section 54-196 provides:

The appellants were found guilty as accessories and fined $100 each, against the claim that the accessory statute as so applied violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The Appellate Division of the Circuit Court affirmed. The Supreme Court of Errors affirmed that judgment. 151 Conn. 544, 200 A. 2d 479. We noted probable jurisdiction. 379 U.S. 926 . [381 U.S. 479, 481] 

We think that appellants have standing to raise the constitutional rights of the married people with whom they had a professional relationship. Tileston v. Ullman, 318 U.S. 44 , is different, for there the plaintiff seeking to represent others asked for a declaratory judgment. In that situation we thought that the requirements of standing should be strict, lest the standards of “case or controversy” in Article III of the Constitution become blurred. Here those doubts are removed by reason of a criminal conviction for serving married couples in violation of an aiding-and-abetting statute. Certainly the accessory should have standing to assert that the offense which he is charged with assisting is not, or cannot constitutionally be, a crime.

Source: The History Place caselaw.findlaw.com