Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Eisenstadt v. Baird case brief

Eisenstadt v. Baird case brief summary
405 U.S. 438 (1972)

Appellee sheriff sought review of an order of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacating the district court's order dismissing appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge his conviction, under Mass. Gen. Law Ann. ch. 272, § 21, for distributing contraceptive foam to an unmarried woman.

Appellant was convicted of, among other things, giving private-area foam to an unmarried woman at the close of a lecture, a violation of Mass. Gen. Law Ann. ch. 272, § 21. The district court dismissed appellant's petition for habeas corpus relief, but the circuit court vacated the district court's order, and remanded with instructions to grant the writ.


  • The Court affirmed the circuit court's order. Appellant had standing to assert the rights of unmarried people to access the contraception because he served as an advocate for this third-party right. 
  • In so ruling, the Court emphasized that the reason for giving away the foam was to test the statute. 
  • Then, the Court held that the state statute violated the Equal Protection Clause of U.S. Constitutional Amendment XIV. 
  • There was no rational reason for the different treatment of married and unmarried people. 
  • The right of privacy to be free of unwanted intrusions into the fundamental decision of whether to have children was the same for married and unmarried alike. 
  • The Court rejected appellee's argument that the distinction was health related, noting that unmarried persons had as great an interest in avoiding the spread of harmful diseases.


The Court affirmed the circuit court's order vacating the district court's dismissal of appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

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