Eisenstadt v. Baird

Following is the case brief for Eisenstadt v. Baird, Supreme Court of the United States, (1972)

Case summary for Eisenstadt v. Baird:

  • Baird was convicted under a state statute which made it illegal to provide contraception to unmarried individuals.
  • Baird challenged the statute, claiming it violated the Equal Protection Clause.
  • The state court of appeals held that the statute violated the Equal Protection Clause and Sheriff Eisenstadt appealed.
  • The Court found that creating a suspect class based on marital status in this case violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. 

Eisenstadt v. Baird Case Brief

Statement of the facts:

In Massachusetts it was a crime to give “drugs, medicine, instrument or article whatever for the prevention of contraception” unless prescribed by a doctor to married couples. Baird was found guilty of violating the statute when he handed out contraceptive articles while performing a lecture to students at Boston University. In response, Baird challenged his convictions by filing suit against Eisenstadt, a sheriff.

Procedural History:

The lower court partially reversed the conviction. On appeal, the state court of appeals reversed and remanded the case back down to the trial court. Sheriff Eisenstadt then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

A state is prohibited from outlawing distribution of contraception to an unwed person under the Equal Protection Clause.

Issue and Holding:

Does a Massachusetts state statute which allow distribution of contraceptives to married persons but exclude distribution to unmarried persons violate the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment? Yes.

Judgment:

The Court affirmed the court of appeal’s judgment.

Reasoning:

Under the state statute, only married individuals may use contraception prescribed by a doctor to prevent pregnancy. The state argues that the purpose of the statute is to prevent premarital sex and the spread of venereal disease. This argument is rejected. As is stands, the statute prevents single individuals from obtaining contraception under all circumstances and are prevented from utilizing it to prevent contracting a venereal disease.

Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1966), established a privacy right that is protected between married couples which allows then to use contraception. It follows that the state cannot ban all contraception.

More importantly, the state cannot afford unequal access to contraception based on a person’s marital status. This type of distinction creates a suspect class. Doing such violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Concurring or Dissenting opinion:

Concurring (Douglas):

The Equal Protection Clause does not need to be considered. A state may not limit a person’s ability to lecture on specific issues or the topic of contraception. Contraception was distributed to aid in Eisenstadt’s presentation. Under the First Amendment, Eisenstadt’s speech is clearly protected, and the contraception should be viewed as an aid to convey protected speech.

Dissenting (Burger):

No part of the Constitution suggests that contraceptives must be available outside of a doctor’s office. Unlike the statute in Griswold, which flatly prohibited contraception, this statute regulates how contraception is used by different groups of individuals.

Significance:

Eisenstadt v. Baird established the right to use contraceptives to all Americans, not just married individuals who wanted to prevent pregnancy.

Student Resources:

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/405/438/case.html
http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/405/438.html

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