Right to Privacy

Supreem Court

The word "privacy" does not exist in the Constitution, but that right has been implied by the Court. The right to use contraceptives and the right of a women to have an abortion have been protected under this concept..



The Constitution does not directly address the right of privacy. Writing in 1928, Supreme Court Justice Brandeis stated “the right to be let alone is the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.” Despite Brandeis' writing, the Court did not recognized privacy until 1965, in the case of Griswold v. Connecticut. In that case, the Court struck down an 1879 Connecticut law that made it unlawful to use contraceptives. That law further made it illegal to counsel anyone on contraceptives.

In 1973, in the case of Roe v. Wade, the Court extended the right of privacy to abortions. Justice Harry Blackmun, writing for the majority, stated that the right to privacy "is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision on whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." The Court did allow states to ban third trimester abortions, however, except in cases in which the mother's health was endangered.

In the 1989 decision of Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, the Court upheld a state law that limited a woman's right to an abortion after 20 weeks. In 1992, in the case of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Court upheld a number of restrictions on abortions enacted in Pennsylvania. However, it refused to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling, stating in the decision that right of a women to terminate her pregnancy "is a rule of law and a component of liberty that we cannot renounce."