Eisenstadt v. Baird 8212 17, No. 70

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
Citation31 L.Ed.2d 349,92 S.Ct. 1029,405 U.S. 438
PartiesThomas S. EISENSTADT, Sheriff of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Appellant, v. William R. BAIRD. —17
Decision Date22 March 1972
Docket NumberNo. 70

405 U.S. 438
92 S.Ct. 1029
31 L.Ed.2d 349
Thomas S. EISENSTADT, Sheriff of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Appellant,

v.

William R. BAIRD.

No. 70—17.
Argued Nov. 17 and 18, 1971.
Decided March 22, 1972.

Syllabus

Appellee attacks his conviction of violating Massachusetts law for giving a woman a contraceptive foam at the close of his lecture to students on contraception. That law makes it a felony for anyone to give away a drug, medicine, instrument, or article for the prevention of conception except in the case of (1) a registered physician administering or prescribing it for a married person or (2) an active registered pharmacist furnishing it to a married person presenting a registered physician's prescription. The District Court dismissed appellee's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Court of Appeals vacated the dismissal, holding that the statute is a prohibition on contraception per se and conflicts 'with fundamental human rights' under Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S.Ct. 1678, 14 L.Ed.2d 510. Appellant, inter alia, argues that appellee lacks standing to assert the rights of unmarried persons denied access to contraceptives because he was neither an authorized distributor under the statute nor a single person unable to obtain contraceptives. Held:

1. If, as the Court of Appeals held, the statute under which appellee was convicted is not a health measure, appellee may not be prevented, because he was not an authorized distributor, from attacking the statute in its alleged discriminatory application to potential distributees. Appellee, furthermore, has standing to assert the rights of unmarried persons denied access to contraceptives because their ability to obtain them will be materially impaired by enforcement of the statute. Cf. Griswold, supra; Barrows v. Jackson, 346 U.S. 249, 73 S.Ct. 1031, 97 L.Ed. 1586. Pp. 443—446.

2. By providing dissimilar treatment for married and unmarried persons who are similarly situated, the statute violates the Equal Protection Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 446 455.

(a) The deterrence of fornication, a 90-day misdemeanor under Massachusetts law, cannot reasonably be regarded as the purpose of the statute, since the statute is riddled with exceptions making contraceptives freely available for use in premarital sexual

Page 439

relations and its scope and penalty structure are inconsistent with that purpose. Pp. 447—450.

(b) Similarly, the protection of public health through the regulation of the distribution of potentially harmful articles cannot reasonably be regarded as the of the law, since, if health were the rationale, the statute would be both discriminatory and overbroad, and federal and state laws already regulate the distribution of drugs unsafe for use except under the supervision of a licensed physician. Pp. 450—452.

(c) Nor can the statute be sustained simply as a prohibition on contraception per se, for whatever the rights of the individual to access to contraceptives may be, the rights must be the same for the unmarried and the married alike. If under Griswold, supra, the distribution on contraceptives to married persons cannot be prohibited, a ban on distribution to unmarried persons would be equally impermissible, since the constitutionally protected right of privacy inheres in the individual, not the marital couple. If, on the other hand, Griswold is no bar to a prohibition on the distribution of contraceptives, a prohibition limited to unmarried persons would be underinclusive and invidiously discriminatory. Pp. 452—455.

429 F.2d 1398, affirmed.

Joseph R. Nolan, Boston, Mass., for appellant.

Joseph D. Tydings, Baltimore, Md., for appellee.

Page 440

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellee William Baird was convicted at a bench trial in the Massachusetts Superior Court under Massachusetts General Laws Ann., c. 272, § 21, first, for exhibiting contraceptive articles in the course of delivering a lecture on contraception to a group of students at Boston University and, second, for giving a young woman a package of Emko vaginal foam at the close of his address.1 The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously set aside the conviction for exhibiting contraceptives on the ground that it violated Baird's First Amendment rights, but by a four-to-three vote sustained the conviction for giving away the foam. Commonwealth v. Baird, 355 Mass. 746, 247 N.E.2d 574 (1969). Baird subsequently filed a petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus, which the District Court dismissed. 310 F.Supp. 951 (1970). On appeal, however, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated the dismissal and remanded the action with directions to grant the writ discharging Baird. 429 F.2d 1398 (1970). This appeal by the Sheriff of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, followed, and we noted probable jurisdiction. 401 U.S. 934, 91 S.Ct. 921, 28 L.Ed.2d 213 (1971). We affirm.

Massachusetts General Laws Ann., c. 272, § 21, under which Baird was convicted, provides a maximum five-year term of imprisonment for 'whoever . . . gives away . . . any drug, medicine, instrument or article whatever

Page 441

for the prevention of conception,' except as authorized in § 21A. Under § 21A, '(a) registered physician may administer to or prescribe for any married person drugs or articles intended for the prevention of pregnancy or conception. (And a) registered pharmacist actually engaged in the business of pharmacy may furnish such drugs or articles to any married person presenting a prescription from a registered physician.'2 As interpreted by the State Supreme Judicial

Page 442

Court, these provisions make it a felony for anyone, other than a registered physician or pharmacist acting in accordance with the terms of § 21A, to dispense any article with the intention that it be used for the prevention of conception. The statutory scheme distinguishes among three distinct classes of distributees—first, married persons may obtain contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, but only from doctors or druggists on prescription; second, single persons may not obtain contraceptives from anyone to prevent pregnancy; and, third, married or single persons may obtain contraceptives from anyone to prevent, not pregnancy, but the spread of disease. This construction of state law is, of course, binding on us. E.g., Groppi v. Wisconsin, 400 U.S. 505, 507, 91 S.Ct. 490, 491, 27 L.Ed.2d 571 (1971).

The legislative purposes that the statute is meant to serve are not altogether clear. In Commonwealth v. Baird, supra, the Supreme Judicial Court noted only the State's interest in protecting the health of its citizens: '(T)he prohibition in § 21,' the court declared, 'is directly related to' the State's goal of 'preventing the distribution of articles designed to prevent conception which may have undesirable, if not dangerous, physical consequences,' 355 Mass., at 753, 247 N.E.2d, at 578. In a subsequent decision, Sturgis v. Attorney General, 358 Mass. 37, 260 N.E.2d 687, 690 (1970), the court, however, found 'a second and more compelling ground for upholding the statute'—namely, to protect morals through 'regulating the private sexual lives of single persons.'3 The Court of Appeals, for reasons that will

Page 443

appear, did not consider the promotion of health or the protection of morals through the deterrence of fornication to be the legislative aim. Instead, the court concluded that the statutory goal was to limit contraception in and of itself—a purpose that the court held conflicted 'with fundamental human rights' under Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S.Ct. 1678, 14 L.Ed.2d 510 (1965), where this Court struck down Connecticut's prohibition against the use of contraceptives as an unconstitutional infringement of the right of marital privacy. 429 F.2d, at 1401 1402.

We agree that the goals of deterring premarital sex and regulating the distribution of potentially harmful articles cannot reasonably be regarded as legislative aims of §§ 21 and 21A. And we hold that the statute, viewed as a prohibition on contraception per se, violates the rights of single persons under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

I

We address at the outset appellant's contention that Baird does not have standing to assert the rights of unmarried persons denied access to contraceptives because he was neither an authorized distributor under § 21A nor a single person unable to obtain contraceptives. There can be no question, of course, that Baird has sufficient interest in challenging the statute's validity to satisfy the 'case or controversy' requirement of Article III of the Constitution.4 Appellant's argument, however, is that

Page 444

this case is governed by the Court's self-imposed rules of restraint, first, that 'one to whom application of a statute is constitutional will not be heard to attack the statute on the ground that impliedly it might also be taken as applying to other persons or other situations in which its application might be unconstitutional,' United States v. Raines, 362 U.S. 17, 21, 80 S.Ct. 519, 522, 4 L.Ed.2d 524 (1960), and, second, the 'closely related corollary that a litigant may only assert his own constitutional rights or immunities,' id., at 22, 80 S.Ct., at 523. Here, appellant contends that Baird's conviction rests on the restriction in 21A on permissible distributors and that that restriction serves a valid health interest independent of the limitation on authorized distributees. Appellant urges, therefore, that Baird's action in giving away the foam fell squarely within the conduct that the legislature meant and had power to prohibit and that Baird should not be allowed to attack the statute in its application to potential recipients. In any event, appellant concludes, since Baird was not himself a single person denied access to contraceptives, he should not be heard to assert their...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1340 practice notes
  • Frissell v. Rizzo, No. 78-1863
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • February 20, 1979
    ...683, 97 S.Ct. 2010, 52 L.Ed.2d 675 (1977); Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 192-97, 97 S.Ct. 451, 50 L.Ed.2d 397 (1976); Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 443-446, 92 S.Ct. 1029, 31 L.Ed.2d 349 (1972). In these cases, vendors of goods or services were permitted to assert the constitutional ri......
  • Mancuso v. Taft, No. 72-1180.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • March 20, 1973
    ...92 (1972); Green v. McKeon, 335 F.Supp. 630 (E.D.Mich.1971), aff'd, 468 F.2d 883 (6th Cir. 1972); see generally Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 444-446, 92 S.Ct. 1029, 31 L.Ed.2d 349 (1972); Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S.Ct. 1678, 14 L.Ed.2d 510 (1965). Moreover, we note th......
  • Byron, Harless, Schaffer, Reid and Associates, Inc. v. State ex rel. Schellenberg, No. DD-30
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 1, 1978
    ...L.Rev. 587, 604 et seq. (1977); Silver, The Future of Constitutional Privacy, 21 St. Louis U.L.J. 211, 270 (1977). 16 Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 453, 92 S.Ct. 1029, 1038, 31 L.Ed.2d 349, 362 (1972). The Court later stated that the protection afforded familial relationships extends o......
  • United States v. Atlantic Richfield Co., Civ. A. No. 75-3096
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 29, 1977
    ...of others are present here. See Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U.S. 106, 96 S.Ct. 2868, 2874-76, 49 L.Ed.2d 826 (1976); Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 445-446, 92 S.Ct. 1029, 31 L.Ed.2d 349 (1972); Barrows v. Jackson, 346 U.S. 249, 73 S.Ct. 1031, 97 L.Ed. 1586 (1953). See generally, Sedler, St......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1328 cases
  • Frissell v. Rizzo, No. 78-1863
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • February 20, 1979
    ...683, 97 S.Ct. 2010, 52 L.Ed.2d 675 (1977); Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 192-97, 97 S.Ct. 451, 50 L.Ed.2d 397 (1976); Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 443-446, 92 S.Ct. 1029, 31 L.Ed.2d 349 (1972). In these cases, vendors of goods or services were permitted to assert the constitutional ri......
  • Mancuso v. Taft, No. 72-1180.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • March 20, 1973
    ...92 (1972); Green v. McKeon, 335 F.Supp. 630 (E.D.Mich.1971), aff'd, 468 F.2d 883 (6th Cir. 1972); see generally Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 444-446, 92 S.Ct. 1029, 31 L.Ed.2d 349 (1972); Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S.Ct. 1678, 14 L.Ed.2d 510 (1965). Moreover, we note th......
  • Byron, Harless, Schaffer, Reid and Associates, Inc. v. State ex rel. Schellenberg, No. DD-30
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 1, 1978
    ...L.Rev. 587, 604 et seq. (1977); Silver, The Future of Constitutional Privacy, 21 St. Louis U.L.J. 211, 270 (1977). 16 Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 453, 92 S.Ct. 1029, 1038, 31 L.Ed.2d 349, 362 (1972). The Court later stated that the protection afforded familial relationships extends o......
  • United States v. Atlantic Richfield Co., Civ. A. No. 75-3096
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 29, 1977
    ...of others are present here. See Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U.S. 106, 96 S.Ct. 2868, 2874-76, 49 L.Ed.2d 826 (1976); Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 445-446, 92 S.Ct. 1029, 31 L.Ed.2d 349 (1972); Barrows v. Jackson, 346 U.S. 249, 73 S.Ct. 1031, 97 L.Ed. 1586 (1953). See generally, Sedler, St......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 books & journal articles
  • Pregnancy’s Risks and the Health Exception in Abortion Jurisprudence
    • United States
    • Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law Nbr. XXII-1, October 2020
    • October 1, 2020
    ...to act in their own interest. The Supreme Court considered the potential expansiveness of a health excep-tion in Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972). In that case, a Connecticut law allowed condoms to be sold in order to prevent venereal disease but not preg-nancy.294 The Court found t......
  • Abortion
    • United States
    • Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law Nbr. XXII-2, January 2021
    • January 1, 2021
    ...Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 153 (1973). 27. Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 484–85 (1965); Roe, 410 U.S. at 129. 28. Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 453 (1972); Roe, 410 U.S. at 129. 29. Roe, 410 U.S. at 154. 30. The Roe Court held that during the f‌irst trimester, the state could not int......
  • Prison Inmates’ Right to Hunger Strike
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Review Nbr. 39-2, June 2014
    • June 1, 2014
    ...(1940).Chavez v. Martinez, 538 U.S. 760 (2003).Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (1990).Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972).FTC v. Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association, 493 U.S. 411 (1990).Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).Kanaboshi Hamdan v......
  • REPRODUCTIVE INDETERMINACY AND RIGHTS DISCOURSE IN FROZEN EMBRYO DISPUTES.
    • United States
    • Columbia Journal of Gender and Law Vol. 42 Nbr. 1, December 2021
    • December 22, 2021
    ...(61) Id. at 196. (62) Id. at 198-99. (63) Id. at 232. (64) Davis v. Davis, 842 S.W.2d 588, 604 (Tenn. 1992). (65) Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 453 (66) Davis, 842 S.W.2d at 588. (67) Id. (68) Id. at 589, 591-92. (69) Id. at 590. (70) Id. (71) Id. at 597. (72) Id. at 590. (73) Id. at 5......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT