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Eisenstadt v. Baird

405 U.S. 438 (1972)

Docket Number: 70-17



November 17, 1971


March 22, 1972



Judicial Power: Standing to Sue, Personal Injury

Facts of the Case

William Baird gave away Emko Vaginal Foam to a woman following his Boston University lecture on birth control and over-population. Massachusetts charged Baird with a felony, to distribute contraceptives to unmarried men or women. Under the law, only married couples could obtain contraceptives; only registered doctors or pharmacists could provide them. Baird was not an authorized distributor of contraceptives.

Question Presented

Did the Massachusetts law violate the right to privacy acknowledged in Griswold v. Connecticut and protected from state instrusion by the Fourteenth Amendment?


In a 6-to-1 decision, the Court struck down the Massachusetts law but not on privacy grounds. The Court held that the law's distinction between single and married individuals failed to satisfy the "rational basis test" of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Married couples were entitled to contraception under the Court's Griswold decision. Withholding that right to single persons without a rational basis proved the fatal flaw. Thus, the Court did not have to rely on Griswold to invalidate the Massachusetts statute. "If the right of privacy means anything, wrote Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. for the majority, "it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion tino matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision to whether to bear or beget a child."

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