Privacy, Griswold Style

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Dan Savage breaks down privacy laws in a great editorial:

In 1961, Griswold, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, opened a birth-control clinic in New Haven. She was promptly arrested for dispensing contraceptives to a married couple and was eventually convicted and fined $100. She appealed, and when her case reached the Supreme Court in 1965, seven of nine justices voted to overturn the conviction, striking down Connecticut’s law against selling birth control (effectively overturning similar laws in other states). Americans, the court ruled, had a fundamental right to privacy.

Much of American jurisprudence since then flows from Griswold – including Roe v. Wade, which found that women had a right to abortion, and Lawrence v. Texas of 2003, which found that the right to privacy prevents the government from banning sodomy, gay and straight.

Problematically, however, a right to privacy is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. The majority in Griswold held that it was among the unenumerated rights implied by the Constitution’s “penumbras” (which sound like something a sodomy law might keep you away from). The Griswold case didn’t settle the matter, and the right to privacy quickly became the Tinkerbell of constitutional rights: clap your hands if you believe.

And lest we forget about Alito’s potential views, let’s also remember what Scalia has said on the highest court in the land:

Liberals clap. We love the right to privacy because we believe adults should have access to birth control, abortion services and pornography as well as the right to engage in gay sex. Social conservatives hate the right to privacy for the very same reason, as they seek to regulate private behaviors from access to birth control to masturbation. (Think I’m kidding about masturbation? In Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, he wrote that the majority’s decision called into question the legality of state laws against “masturbation, adultery, fornication.”)

Not that I need to say this, but definitely worth a read…or two…or three…