Carey v. Population Servs. Int'l

431 U.S. 678, 97 S. Ct. 2010 (1977)



Although the Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy, the court has recognized that one aspect of the "liberty" protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy. This right of personal privacy includes the interest in independence in making certain kinds of important decisions. While the outer limits of this aspect of privacy have not been marked by the court, it is clear that among the decisions that an individual may make without unjustified government interference are personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and child rearing and education. 


Appellees, seller of contraceptives and others, challenged N.Y. Educ. Law § 6811(8) (1972) prohibiting the sales of contraceptives to minors, and advertisements or displays of contraceptives, and providing that only pharmacists could sell contraceptives to adults. The lower court found the statute unconstitutional. On appeal, the Court affirmed.


Is the New York statute constitutional?




The statute was an unjustified intrusion by the state on individual decisions in matters of childbearing, protected as privacy rights by the Due Process Clause of U.S. Const. amend. XIV. The Court rejected the contention that the statute was a constitutionally permissible regulation of morality of minors, holding that because the state could not flatly prohibit the choice of a minor to terminate a pregnancy, a blanket prohibition of distribution of contraceptives to minors was a fortiori unconstitutional. The statute's ban on advertising was an unconstitutional suppression of commercial information related to protected activity. Limiting distribution to pharmacists imposed an unconstitutional burden on the individual's right to use contraceptives; an exception permitting physicians to dispense contraceptives did not save the statute.

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