Griswold VS. Connecticut
A Critical Analysis of the Major, Concurring, and Dissenting Opinions
St. John’s University
Griswold versus Connecticut, a landmark case, set precedent on the regulation of contraceptive laws in the United States. The court recognized the importance for the protection of married persons fundamental right to privacy. It was determined that the federal government does not possess the power for regulating acceptable decisions made within a marriage. Although, the fundamental right to privacy is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, there are penumbras within the amendments that imply these rights. It should be noted that the ruling for this case is based on penumbras and does not possess explicit constitutional support. My analysis of the main opinion, concurring opinions, and dissenting opinions will weigh in on the acceptability for Justices to provide positive results without constitutional support.
In 1879, Connecticut passed a law which criminalized the use of any contraceptive plan or device and those that assisted in the process. The rationale behind the statute was to make contraception obsolete in order to prevent the indulgence of extra-marital affairs. In 1961, Estelle Griswold, the executive director of Planned Parenthood and Dr. C. Lee Buxton funded a clinic that assisted married couples with contraceptive plans via advisement or implementation. They were fined one hundred dollars each and deemed guilty as accessories for providing illegal contraception. This decision was upheld in The Circuit Court in the Sixth Circuit of Connecticut, The Appellate Division of the Circuit Court, and The Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors. However, the Supreme Court ruled against the law deeming it unconstitutional as it violated the right of marital privacy. The 7-2 decision written by Justice William O. Douglas contended that the Bill of Rights consists of penumbras that guarantee the protection of privacy from governmental intrusion. The First, Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments are cited to implicate penumbras. The Connecticut Statute deemed null and void as it could not justify the beneficial purposes to marital relations.
I am in favor of the fundamental right to privacy, as I hope anyone would be. Any statute that dictates what is acceptable in a marital relationship is outrageous. The sacred sanctity of marriage should be protected for it is an institution that precedes the creation of the constitution. The government should not have the power to regulate activities conducted within a marriage. If such was the case, the government would be allowed to intervene in petty household disputes. As Justice Douglas stated, the thought of allowing the police to conducts searches and seizures for contraceptive devices in the bedroom is repulsive. The Constitution does not have to explicitly state what should and should not be allowed. It is there as a guideline for protected freedoms. Justices Goldberg, Warren, and Brennan concurred arguing that the right to privacy was not contained in imaginary penumbras, but located in the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments. It is argued that the Due Process Clause protects fundamental rights and liberties but does not cover the first eight amendments in its entirety. Justice Harlan argued that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right to privacy. And Justice White argued that the Fourteenth Amendment was the proper basis for the decision as it covers against arbitrary or capricious denials or on the nature of this liberty. It also includes the right to marry, establish a home, and bring up children.
However, the dissenting opinions by Justices Black and Stewart, argue that the majority ruling failed to specify how the statute violated the constitution. The penumbras mentioned are not explicitly stated in the Bill of Rights, therefore the “natural law philosophy” cannot be confirmed. The ruling Justices construed an argument to fit their opinion and biases against the law. Justice Black made a valid point. The Supreme Court has the final say in determining a law unconstitutional. They uphold a responsibility to the country and its citizen to remain neutral and unbiased while presiding on the bench. It is beyond their power to deliberate the rationale of municipal laws. Although the intentions are for a greater cause, it creates a damaging effect in the long run. It allows the Constitution to be molded to fit the nature of a case for favorable outcomes. Justice Black’s dissenting opinion is extreme, for he expresses that the Constitution should be upheld as it is written and there is no room for interpretation. He even goes as far as to say that the United States has the power to invade privacy unless restricted by a specific clause or amendment. Justice Stewart, on the other hand, agrees that the law is uncommonly silly but finds that there is a lack of constitutional support which invalidates the law. He suggests that if the People of Connecticut want to discard of this law, they should persuade their elected representatives to repeal it. They would be practicing the Ninth and Tenth amendment the way it was intended for use.