The Right to Contraception: Privacy, The Supreme Court, and The Constitution
The story of the fight for contraceptive rights is one that provides great insight beyond the realm of sex and childbearing. Through the various Supreme Court precedents regarding the issue, namely Griswold v. Connecticut, Baird v. Eisenstadt, and Carey v. Population Services International, an assortment of conclusions can be reached about not only the right to sexual privacy but the right to privacy as a whole implicit the American Constitution. The debate over certain legal aspects of contraceptive access has continued through today and is widely contested across different schools of thought, especially in light of the passage of the Obama administration's controversial health care law. One can only wait and see what will come to pass in terms of the current deliberations, but interesting and rewarding analysis can be made based on past legal and constitutional indicators.
Griswold v. Connecticut was a 1965 case that ruled the right to privacy was present in the "penumbras" and "emanations" of the Bill of Rights, although it is nowhere specified as a reserved right in the text of the Constitution.
The case concerned an antiquated (1879) Connecticut law prohibiting the use of contraceptives, which banned the use of "any drug, medicinal article, or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception" and had been challenged twice before (Tileston v. Ullman, 1943, and Poe v. Ullman, 1961). [1: Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965). Majority opinion Justice William O. Douglas.]
Although these previous contestations were unsuccessful for various procedural shortcomings, the dissent filed in Poe by Justice John Marshall Harlan established one of the broadest views of the liberties protected under the Due Process Clause's incorporation of the Bill of Rights into the state governments. An oft-cited quote exemplifies:...