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Study Notes

Griswold v Connecticut 1965

A Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

This Supreme Court case found that the Constitution protected a right to privacy. The case was ruled under the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendment. This occurred through the concurring opinions written alongside the majority opinion. 

Background to the Case:

The Connecticut Comstock Act of 1879 makes it illegal to use “any drug, medicinal article, or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception”. Due to this law the running of birth control clinics was deemed an illegal practice. However, it was a law that by the 1950s was seldom enforced. The Director of Connecticut Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, Estelle Griswold opened a birth control clinic in New Haven, Connecticut in 1961. Griswold was arrested and charged, resulting in an $100 fine. This ruling was upheld by the District Courts and Connecticut Supreme Court.

The Case:

The central argument presented by Griswold, arguing that statute in Connecticut was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court found that the Constitution has a right to privacy. Whilst, not directly mentioned it is found within the language of other amendments including the self-incrimination clause. Justices on the court wrote opinions finding the right to privacy in the Ninth amendment which states the rights not enumerated are held by the people. Other justices found the right to privacy through the Fourteenth amendment under the Due Process clause.

The Decision:

The Court ruled 7-2 that the Connecticut was in breach of the Fourteenth Amendment and as such there was a right to privacy.

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