Griswold v. Connecticut

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Griswold v. Connecticut (381 U.S. 479) was a United States Supreme Court case involving the constitutionality of a Connecticut statute (law) prohibiting the use of contraception by unnatural means, such as artificial birth control.

Griswold is frequently cited indirectly with the keywords "emanations and penumbras", for its well known if not quirky phrase: "Specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance."


Griswold is considered an important, if unfortunate, precedent in United States constitutional law and is considered to have created a "right to privacy" not present in the U.S. Constitution. This precedent was later used as the foundation for the Roe v. Wade line of decisions which declared state laws prohibiting abortion to be unconstitutional, and the Lawrence v. Texas decision which made the criminalization of homosexual behavior unconstitutional.


Appellant Griswold was the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. Appellant Buxton was a licensed physician and a professor at the Yale Medical School who served as Medical Director for the League at its Center in New Haven. Both had been arrested for violating a Connecticut law which made it a crime punishable by a $50.00 fine and/or 60 days imprisonment to use "any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception"[1] and which extended the same penalty to anyone "who assists, abets, counsels, causes, hires or commands another" [2] to do so. Griswold and Buxton had been convicted of prescribing contraceptives to married couples in violation of the Connecticut law.

The opinion of the court was delivered by Justice William Douglas, and, after finding that the appellants had standing to invoke the constitutional rights of the married people they had provided contraception to, went on to find that the Connecticut law violated the penumbra (shadow) emanating from the First Amendment, Third Amendment, Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which created a "zone of privacy" around the married couples Griswold and Buxton had assisted. This reasoning explicitly relied in part on the Supreme Court's previous decision in Mapp v. Ohio (367 U.S. 643), a case involving search warrant issues, and Griswold is often considered by lawyers to be a legal progeny of Mapp, in the same way that Roe is a progeny of Griswold.

Justices Black and Stewart dissented.

See also


  1. 381 U.S. 479, 480
  2. ibid

External links