Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S. Ct. 1678, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510 (1965)

Christopher Hurtado —  February 11, 2010
Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S. Ct. 1678, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510 (1965) | Christopher Hurtado


Griswold, an Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood of Connecticut and a medical doctor were convicted under a state statute criminalizing of married couples seeking to take contraceptives.


Is there a right to privacy in marriage implicit in the Constitution, despite the lack of explicit language guaranteeing such a right?


Although it is not guaranteed in the Constitution, the marital right to privacy is an implicit penumbral right created by certain other implicit guarantees. Thus, this right is protected against state statutes that would interfere with it. Furthermore, the statute at hand overreaches the legitimate scope of state power and, therefore, must be invalidated.


The Constitution does not explicitly protect a general right to privacy, but the Bill of Rights creates penumbras that establish such a right, guaranteeing “zones of privacy.” Together, the First Amendment’s right of association, the Third Amendment’s prohibition against peacetime quartering of soldiers, the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure, the Fifth Amendment’s self-incrimination clause and the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of enumerated rights, imply a right to privacy.

In Meyer v. Nebraska (1923), the Supreme Court recognized the rights to marry, raise children, and attain information necessary to protect liberty rights guaranteed in the Due Process Clause. In Pierce v. Society of Sister (1925), the Court extended liberty rights to parents, invalidating a state law that required students to attend public schools specifically because it interfered with parental rights to choose their children’s education.

Applying the aforementioned precedents, parents should be able to make their own decisions regarding birth control. Although the right to privacy is not explicitly guaranteed by the Constitution, it should be granted here as the right to choose one’s children’s education was in Meyer and in Pierce.

Furthermore, restrictions on the reach of a state’s power have been incorporated and apply per the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The statute at hand interferes with the marital right to privacy and the relationship between couples and their physicians.

Concurring and Dissenting Opinions

Concurring: (Goldberg, Warren, Brennan): The Ninth Amendment was not meant to protect the people from the other eight amendments’ specificity. The original eight were fine enough to stand on their own as protective of the penumbra the majority brings to light in this decision. (Harlan): The use of the constitutional amendments is not necessary to justify this ruling, considering the doctrines of federalism and separation of powers. (White): This is a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Due Process clause. The state is acting to limit a right to family, and there is no justification by Connecticut’s argument that it reinforces a ban on illicit sexual relationships.

Dissenting: (Black, Stewart): The statute is silly, outdated, and unenforceable, but does not violate the Constitution’s Ninth Amendment, nor the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The Court is trying to rewrite the Bill of Rights. The only way to find a right to privacy exists is through a Constitutional Amendment.

Christopher Hurtado

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Christopher Hurtado is President and CEO of Linguistic Solutions and Adjunct Instructor of Philosophy and Political Science at Utah Valley University. He holds a BA in Middle East Studies/Arabic and Philosophy and an MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies. He coauthored Vacation Spanish: A Survival Guide for Mexico, the Caribbean, Central & South America. He is married to children's book author and homeschool mom, Alysia Gonzalez. Together they have nine children. They are active in their church and in their community.