How Birth Control Shed Light on the Ninth Amendment
Updated: Oct 20
The Ninth Amendment highlights one of the most complex issues faced by the Framers. When the Constitution was first ratified, Federalists and Anti-Federalists grappled over the issue whether or not a Bill of Rights should be included. Anti-Federalists, who thought the Constitution gave the federal government too much power, wanted a Bill of Rights as a means of protection. However, Federalists argued that a Bill of Rights was dangerous because it implied that any rights not listed did not exist.
After deliberations, the Constitution was amended to include the Bill of Rights. However, to ensure that the government would not misconstrue the list of inalienable rights as the only rights, the Ninth Amendment was included as a safety measure. It reads:
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
This means that even though a right may not be expressly stated in the Bill of Rights does not mean the individual does not have said right. This amendment gives us the right to do most anything so long as it does not harm others or go against any current law.
Perhaps the most notable case involving the Ninth Amendment is Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). At the time, the use of birth control was illegal in Connecticut, and anyone who used birth control or assisted in giving out birth control was fined and punished. The Executive Director at the Planned Parenthood League, Dr. Griswold, and another doctor were each fined $100.00 for giving out birth control. They appealed their case to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court found the law unconstitutional because it violated the right to privacy within a marriage. That is, married couples have the right to make private decisions regarding their sex life without government interference. While this right isn’t listed in the Constitution, the court held this right is protected under the Ninth Amendment, because as the court explained, the right to privacy was inherent in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Amendments. SCOTUS concluded that privacy in marriage was off limits to the government, arguing that we wouldn’t allow the police to search a bedroom for contraceptives since the aforementioned rights would prevent such an instance without just cause, so we shouldn’t allow the government to interfere in this scenario.
While the Ninth Amendment has come under debate as to what other rights that are not listed in the Bill of Rights is protected under the Ninth Amendment, it nonetheless serves the purpose to show the Framers were concerned about one thing and one thing only: limiting the power of the government to ensure the rights of individuals are safeguarded.