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Specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance. Various guarantees create zones of privacy. The right of association contained in the penumbra of the First Amendment is one. The Third Amendment in its prohibition against the quartering of soldiers in any house in time of peace without the consent of the owner is another facet of that privacy. The Fourth Amendment explicitly affirms the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fifth Amendment in its self-incrimination clause enables the citizen to create a zone of privacy which government may not force him to surrender to his detriment. The Ninth Amendment provides that the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
A Connecticut statute made the use of contraceptives a criminal offense. The executive and medical directors of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut were convicted in the Circuit Court for the Sixth Circuit in New Haven, Connecticut, on a charge of having violated the statute as accessories by giving information, instruction, and advice to married persons as to the means of preventing conception. The Appellate Division of the Circuit Court affirmed and its judgment was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut. The case was elevated on appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Did the statute violate a couple’s right to privacy?
The Court held right of privacy to use birth control measures was found to be a legitimate one. Thus, finding the statute unconstitutional. It held that marriage lies within the zone of privacy created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees, which, in forbidding the use of contraceptives rather than regulating their manufacture or sale, seeks to achieve its goals by means having a maximum destructive impact upon that relationship. Thus, such a law cannot stand in light of the familiar that a governmental purpose to control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to state regulation may not be achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected freedoms. The very idea of allowing the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship.