This Day in the Law
June 7

Griswold v. Connecticut Decided by the Supreme Court (1965)

On June 7, 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Griswold v. Connecticut in favor of the petitioner Estelle Griswold. Griswold is considered a landmark case because it established the precedent that the United States Constitution grants a right to privacy.

Griswold v. Connecticut involved a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of any type of contraceptive. This law was originally passed in 1879, but it was very rarely enforced. Several attempts were previously made to test the constitutionality of the law, but they all failed on technical grounds. Estelle Griswold was the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. In this capacity, she gave information and medical advice to married couples concerning birth control. Griswold was convicted under the Connecticut law which criminalized the provision of counseling and medical treatment to married persons for purposes of preventing conception. She was fined $100. Griswold appealed to the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut, claiming that the law violated the U.S. Constitution. The Connecticut court upheld the conviction, and Griswold then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although the Constitution does not explicitly mention privacy, several of the Supreme Court justices wrote for the majority that the right could be found in the underlying subtext of constitutional protections. The Ninth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment were also cited as Constitutional support of privacy.

On the opposing side it was argued that the right to privacy was to be found nowhere in the Constitution. One of the opposing Justices mentioned that the Connecticut law was “silly,” but that it was nevertheless constitutional.

On June 7, 1965, by a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court invalidated the law on the grounds that it violated the right to marital privacy. Since Griswold, the Supreme Court has cited the right to privacy in several other rulings, most notably in Roe v. Wade in 1973. The Supreme Court ruled that a woman's choice to have an abortion was protected as a private decision between her and her doctor.

Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965)