Griswold v. Connecticut | 1965
George Mason University Law Professor
Temple University Law Professor & Associate Dean for Research
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  • Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made
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Subject: Fundamental Right to Privacy
Case Decided:
June 7, 1965

Griswold v. Connecticut struck down a Connecticut law, applied to married couples, that banned contraceptives and the ability to receive information about the use of contraceptives. In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled that the Connecticut law violated the right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Estelle Griswold, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, along with the center's medical director, were arrested and fined for defying the Connecticut law banning contraceptives and distribution of information on them.

Griswold challenged the Connecticut law claiming it violated an individual's right to privacy. While "the right to privacy" is not explicitly found in the Constitution, Justice William Douglas wrote for the majority that "specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance." This case later paved the way for the Supreme Court's 1973 decision regarding abortion in Roe v. Wade.

Key Players
Dr. C. Lee Buxton
Dr. C. Lee Buxton (October 14, 1904 - July 7, 1969) was chair of the Yale Medical School's department of gynecology and obstetrics control and a birth control advocate. He joined forces with Estelle Griswold to challenge the Connecticut legislation prohibiting the use of contraceptives.
Image courtesy of Cushing/Whitney Medical Library/Yale University
Estelle Griswold
Estelle Griswold (June 8, 1900 – August 13, 1981) was the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. A Connecticut statute from 1879 outlawed the use of contraceptives or assisting someone in using them. Griswold was accused of giving medical advice to married persons about contraception. She claimed the Connecticut statute was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Griswold v. Connecticut paved the way for the later Roe v. Wade decision.
Justice William O. Douglas
William O. Douglas (October 16, 1898 - January 19, 1980) was a lawyer and the second-youngest Supreme Court appointee in history. Justice Douglas delivered the opinion in Griswold v. Connecticut stating that “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanation from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.” He was a pioneer of civil liberties and individual rights.
Image courtesy of Library of Congress
Justice Hugo Black
Hugo Black (February 27, 1886 – September 25, 1971) was a politician and former Ku Klux Klan member eventually known for his civil rights rulings. He was a Supreme Court justice (1937 – 1971) and an advocate for the Fourteenth Amendment. Black was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first appointment to the Court. Justice Black, joined by Justice Stewart, both gave dissenting opinions in Griswold v. Connecticut.
Justice Potter Stewart
Potter Stewart (January 23, 1915 - December 7, 1985) was a lawyer and politician with a powerful Republican family background. He was known as an influential swing vote on the Court who helped shape American law. Justice Stewart was one of the two dissenters in Griswold v. Connecticut.
Image courtesy of Library of Congress
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