Griswold vs Connecticut Essay

Griswold vs Connecticut  In Griswold vs Connecticut, the Supreme Court gave a verdict, holding unconstitutional an 1879 Connecticut statute forbidding all persons to use contraceptive devices. The court found it pertinent to discover “a right of privacy” latent in the Bill of Rights and incorporated into the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. All the nine justices expressed their satisfaction over this verdict, limiting public intrusion into private affairs (Sutherland, 1965, p.283).

The landmark decision in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which struck down the anti-contraception law of Connecticut, was an enormous victory in privacy law cases. The Griswold case set into motion scholarly debates and interest in each of the Justice’s opinion on the case.

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Almost none of the law review and journal writers expressed satisfaction over the way the whole issue was addressed by the Supreme Court Judges. Justice Douglas’s opinion was not found to be based on solid grounds because of its lack of specificity about the source of the right to privacy, precisely whether it is born out of a tort of privacy or the constitutional right to privacy. Despite the controversy Griswold set an exemplary instance that changed the lives of American women.

However, the decision proved to be ineffective in guaranteeing individual privacy rights because the right to privacy was available only in the partnership of marriage (Jackson, 2006).Griswold vs Connecticut held that no state may make pregnancy a state imposed risk of sexual intimacy within marriage. To the extent that there are medically safe means of minimising pregnancy risks, two people who are married to each other do not want to incur as an incident of their marital sexual intimacy, Griswold held that the state may not forbid them to take such precautions to minimize those risks as they think appropriate. That a married person might attempt to use a birth control device in relations with someone other than his or her spouse is doubtless true but even so the court held that this observation does not justify a state law that on that account also makes medically safe means of birth control altogether unavailable to persons acting mutually within marriage. The state, the court agreed, does much to do adultery, but not by means that also prejudice the decisions of married persons acting mutually within marriage (Alstyne, 1989, p.

1667). The Griswold decision was explicitly rooted in the rights of marital privacy. It reinforced the civil liberty of married persons to be free from searches and seizures conducted in their bedrooms, to be free from criminal inquisitions into the details of their mutual expressions of intimacy, and to be exclusive to one another on terms of intimacy they, rather than some unit of government, deemed best. Fully keeping with Griswold, risk incidentals, to acts of intimacy within marriage are for the married couple to decide. It is for them to decide how to act or not to act in respect to those risks, with such degree of care and precautions as both or either may think best without any hindrance by the state (Alstyne, 1989, p.

1668).In the Griswold vs Connecticut, the Court’s viewpoint was that the Connecticut statute forbidding the use of contraceptives is amounting to constitutional violation of right of marital privacy. General satisfaction apart, in the Griswold verdict, there was dissatisfactions at the legal circles over the soundness of the constitutional grounds on which the decision was based. In Griswold vs Connecticut, 381 US 479 (1965), the Supreme Court invalidated state legislations prohibiting the use of contraceptives on the ground that such legislation conflicts with right of privacy. This right of privacy is not embedded in the constitution and neither there had been any popular mandate for the protection of sexual rights and marital privacy.

On the contrary, the 14th constitutional amendment which banned the use of contraceptives was a legislation enacted by the people’s representatives and the judiciary struck down the legitimately enacted legislation in Griswold, even though no apparent conflict arose between this legislation and basic will resolve of the people.  The legitimacy of a law in the principle of popular autonomy depends on factors like people’s consent, approval through popular vote or vote’s of people’s representatives. In the case of Griswold vs Connecticut, the judiciary had recognised a law giving constitutional right to people in sexual and reproductive autonomy, and this law had never been consented in a legitimate way as mentioned above. The court while recognising this law in Griswold which was not put forward through popular consent, invalidated another law which was enacted legally through elected representatives of the people and was never came under scrutiny by the people. Thus, the decision of the court in the Griswold seems to contradict the principle of popular sovereignty (Marneffe, 1994, p.98).

More than a century old right of privacy (against tort) written by Louis Brandeis and Samuel Warren was used by Supreme Court of the United States in the Griswold vs Connecticut in 1965, to describe a constitutional right. This century old law although introduced under distinguished sponsorship and widely acclaimed as a forward step in the development of law, had not been clearly defined and widely recognized. The right of privacy against tort was although slowly recognised, the constitutional right of privacy, arising in the Griswold vs Connecticut case was matured upon its first articulation by the Supreme Court in Griswold (McKay, 1965, p.258). The Griswold laid bare the basic differences within the court respecting its role in the protection of fundamental rights and respecting the interrelationship of the fourteenth amendment and the Bills of Rights as a central aspect of the problem (Kauper, 1965, p.235).The court is always faced with the task of defining the rights and determining the standard to be employed in passing on the constitutionality of legislation impinging on the right. Griswold vs Connecticut confirmed the fact that court is where our fundamental rights are protected.

Laws apart, the freedom of marital relationship is a part of rights associated with home, family and marriage which can be supported by common understanding. The basic problem lies in whether the court in exercising the power of judicial review may pass judgement on legislative acts, but rather how wisely it exercising this power in identifying, evaluating, and pondering over the issues in question (Kauper, 1965, p.238).

In exercising its legal power in the Griswold to protect fundamental personal liberty, the only way in which the court had erred is perhaps manipulating the constitution to get the law across. The applauding would have been louder otherwise.ReferencesAlstyne, W.V (1989) Closing the circle of constitutional review from Griswold vs Connecticut to Roe vs Wade: An outline of a decision merely overruling Roe, Duke Law Journal, Duke University School of Law, vol.6, pp.

1677-1688Jackson, M.C.E (2006) Breaking The Bell Jar: A Study of the Boundaries between the Private and Public Lives of Women, Journal of Undergraduate Research, Vol.7, issue.5, retrieved from the url: http://www.clas.ufl.

edu/jur/200605/papers/paper_jackson.html on 23rd Nov, 06.Kauper, P.

G (1965) Penumbras, Peripheries, Emanations, things fundamental and things forgotten, Michigan Law Review, Vol.64, No.2, pp.235-258McKay, R.B (1965) The rights of privacy: Emanations and intimations, Michigan Law Review, Vol.

64, No.2, pp.259-282Marneffe, P.

D (1994) Popular sovereignty and Griswold problematic, Law and Philosophy, Vol.13, No.1, SpringerSutherland, A.

E (1965) Privacy in Connecticut, Michigan Law Review, Vol.64, No.2. pp.283-288 


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