The case of Roe v. Wade, came to limelight when it was overturned by SCOTUS recently. The Supreme Court faced a big uproar over the decision as it snatched the right of abortion from American women. But, besides Roe v. Wade, there is another case also that upheld the right of women to abortion. In this article, we are explaining, these two cases in brief.

Griswold v. Connecticut

In Griswold v. Connecticut[1], a Connecticut statute made the use of contraceptives a criminal offence. The executive and medical directors of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut were convicted in the Circuit Court 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. On appeal the Supreme Court of the United States reversed.

In an opinion by Douglas, J., expressing view of five members of the Court, it was held that the statute was invalid as an unconstitutional invasion of the right of privacy of married persons. He said that the right of freedom of speech press includes not only the right to utter or to print but also the right to disribute, the right to receive, the right to read and that without those peripheral rights the specific right would be less secure and that likewise, the other specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance, that the various guarantees create zones of privacy, aid that protection against all governmental invasion “of the sanctity of a man’s home and the privacies of life” was fundamental.

He further said that the inquiry is whether a right involved is ‘of such a character that it cannot -be denied without violating those ‘fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions’ and that ‘privacy is a fundamental personal right, emanating from the totality of the constitutional scheme under which we (Americans) live.

Dissenting Opinion

In his dissenting opinion, Mr. Justice Black berated the majority for discovering and applying a constitutional right to privacy. His reading of the Constitution failed to uncover any provision or provisions forbidding the passage of any law that might abridge the ‘privacy’ of individuals.

Jane Roe v. Henry Wade

 In Jane Roe v. Henry Wade,[2] an unmarried pregnant woman who wished to terminate her pregnancy by abortion instituted an action in the United State District Court for the Northern District of Texas, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Texas criminal abortion statutes, which prohibited abortions except with respect to those procured or attempted by medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of the mother, were unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court said that although the Constitution of the U.S.A. does not explicitly mention any right of privacy, the United States Supreme Court recognizes that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution, and “that the roots of that right may be found in the First Amendment, in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments in the penumbras of the Bill of Rights, in the ninth Amendment, and in the concept of liberty guaranteed by the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment” and that the “right to privacy is not absolute”.

There can be no doubt that privacy-dignity claims deserve to be examined with care and to be denied only when an important countervailing interest is shown to be superior. If the Court does find that acclaimed right is entitled to protection as a fundamental privacy right a law infringing it must satisfy the compelling state interest test. Then the question would be whether a state interest is of such paramount importance as would justify an infringement of the right.”

[1] 381 U. S. 479, 510

[2] 410 U. S. 113