In 1965, the Supreme Court made an important decision about privacy and women’s reproductive health. Their decision in the case that is about to be described helped pave the way for future landmark decisions concerning privacy in the home, like Lawrence v. Texas and Roe v. Wade.
An 1879 Connecticut law criminalized the use of any drug or method used as a contraceptive and assigned a forty dollar fine or sixty days imprisonment to anyone who did use a contraceptive. The law also criminalized helping someone obtain contraceptives or advising them to use them would count as an offense punishable in the same manner as the primary offense. Estelle Griswold, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood in Connecticut, and Dr. C. Lee Buxton opened a clinic that provided women with birth control options. Both Griswold and Dr. Buxton were charged with providing contraception and fined $100 each. Griswold and Dr. Buxton claimed that the Connecticut law under which they were indicted was unconstitutional but the Connecticut Court upheld the conviction. Griswold appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court reviewed the case and ruled that the Connecticut law violated the right to privacy of martial couples, dubbed the “right to martial privacy”. This right to privacy is a substantive right in the Constitution of the United States. Although it is no explicitly mentioned in the Constitution it can be derived from it. The spirit of key amendments, like the Third Amendment, which prohibits the forced housing of soldiers, the Fourth Amendment, which protects against searches and seizures, and the Fifth Amendment, which provides freedom from self-incrimination, along with others, provides for this right to privacy. A couple’s choice to use contraception could not be infringed upon without a valid reason, which Connecticut failed to provide the Court with.
This case was a landmark decision because it affirmed the right to privacy that American citizens were afforded with through the Constitution. It led the way to Roe v. Wade, which stated that a woman’s reproductive decisions, up to a certain point, came under her right to privacy. It led the way to Lawrence v. Texas, which stated that the relationships a person chooses to have cannot be criminalized because it is within their realm of privacy.
Griswold v. Connecticut was monumental in the realm of women’s rights and personal privacy rights of United States citizens.
Lawrence, Susan E., ed. LAW AND POLITICS IN THE SUPREME COURT:
CASES AND READINGS, REVISED SECOND EDITION, Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 1993
McBride, Alex. "Landmark Cases: Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)." PBS. PBS. Web. 13 July 2014.