Carey v. Population Services International

From Wikisource
(Redirected from 431 U.S. 678)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Carey v. Population Services International  (1977) 

Carey v. Population Services International, 431 U.S. 678, is a United States Supreme Court case. The court held that it was unconstitutional to prohibit the sale of contraceptives to minors, the advertisements or displays of contraceptives, and the sale of contraceptives to adults except through a pharmacist. According to the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a state cannot intrude on and individual’s decisions on matters of procreation which is protected as privacy rights.

Court Documents
Concurring Opinions
Dissenting Opinion

Supreme Court of the United States

431 U.S. 678

Carey  v.  Population Services International

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

No. 75-443  Argued: January 10, 1977 --- Decided: June 9, 1977

Section 6811 (8) of the New York Education Law makes it a crime (1) for any person to sell or distribute any contraceptive of any kind to a minor under 16; (2) for anyone other than a licensed pharmacist to distribute contraceptives to persons 16 or over; and (3) for anyone, including licensed pharmacists, to advertise or display contraceptives. In appellees' action against appellant state officials challenging the constitutionality of 6811 (8), a three-judge District Court declared the statute unconstitutional in its entirety under the First and Fourteenth Amendments insofar as it applies to nonprescription contraceptives, and enjoined its enforcement as so applied.

Held: The judgment is affirmed. Pp. 682-703; 707-708; 713-716.

Mr. Justice Brennan delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, and V, finding that:

1. Appellee Population Planning Associates (PPA), a corporation that makes mail-order sales of nonmedical contraceptive devices from its North Carolina offices and regularly advertises its products in New York periodicals and fills mail orders from New York residents without limiting availability of the products to persons of any particular age, has the requisite standing to maintain the action not only in its own right but also on behalf of its potential customers, Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, and therefore there is no occasion to decide the standing of the other appellees. Pp. 682-684.

2. Regulations imposing a burden on a decision as fundamental as whether to bear or beget a child may be justified only by compelling state interests, and must be narrowly drawn to express only those interests. Pp. 684-686.

3. The provision prohibiting distribution of nonmedical contraceptives to persons 16 or over except through licensed pharmacists clearly burdens the right of such individuals to use contraceptives if they so desire, and the provision serves no compelling state interests. It cannot be justified by an interest in protecting health insofar as it applies to nonhazardous contraceptives or in protecting potential life, nor can it be justified by a concern that young people not sell contraceptives, or as being designed to serve as a quality control device or as facilitating enforcement of the other provisions of the statute. Pp. 686-691.

4. The prohibition of any advertisement or display of contraceptives that seeks to suppress completely any information about the availability and price of contraceptives cannot be justified on the ground that advertisements of contraceptive products would offend and embarrass those exposed to them and that permitting them would legitimize sexual activity of young people. These are classically not justifications validating suppression of expression protected by the First Amendment, and here the advertisements in question merely state the availability of products that are not only entirely legal but constitutionally protected. Pp. 700-702.

Mr. Justice Brennan, joined by Mr. Justice Stewart, Mr. Justice Marshall, and Mr. Justice Blackmun, concluded in Part IV that the provision prohibiting distribution of contraceptives to persons under 16, as applied to nonprescription contraceptives, cannot be justified as a permissible regulation of minors' morality in furtherance of the State's policy against promiscuous sexual intercourse among the young. Pp. 691-699.

(a) The right to privacy in connection with decisions affecting procreation extends to minors as well as to adults, and since a State may not impose a blanket prohibition, or even a blanket requirement of parental consent, on the choice of a minor to terminate her pregnancy, Planned Parenthood of Missouri v. Danforth, 428 U.S. 52, the constitutionality of a blanket prohibition of the distribution of contraceptives to minors is a fortiori foreclosed. Pp. 693-694.

(b) The argument that sexual activity may be deterred by increasing the hazards attendant on it has been rejected by the Court as a justification for restrictions on the freedom to choose whether to bear or beget a child. Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 448 ; Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 148 . Moreover, there is substantial doubt whether limiting access to contraceptives will in fact substantially discourage early sexual behavior. When a State, as here, burdens the exercise of a fundamental right, its attempt to justify that burden as a rational means for the accomplishment of some state policy requires more than the unsupported assertion (appellants here having conceded that there is no evidence that teenage extramarital sexual activity increases in proportion to the availability of contraceptives) that the burden is connected to such a policy. Pp. 694-696.

(c) That under another provision of the statute a minor under 16 may be supplied with a contraceptive by a physician does not save the challenged provision, especially where appellants asserted no medical necessity for imposing a limitation on the distribution of nonprescription contraceptives to minors. Pp. 697-699.

Mr. Justice White concluded that the prohibition against distribution of contraceptives to persons under 16 cannot be justified primarily because the State has not demonstrated that such prohibition measurably contributes to the deterrent purposes that the State advances as justification. Pp. 702-703.

Mr. Justice Powell concluded that the prohibition against distribution of contraceptives to persons under 16 is defective both because it infringes the privacy interests of married females between the ages of 14 and 16 and because it prohibits parents from distributing contraceptives to their children, thus unjustifiably interfering with parental interests in rearing children. Pp. 707-708.

Mr. Justice Stevens concluded that the prohibition against distribution of contraceptives to persons under 16 denies such persons and their parents a choice which, if available, would reduce exposure to venereal disease or unwanted pregnancy, and that the prohibition cannot be justified as a means of discouraging sexual activity by minors. Pp. 713-716.

Brennan, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered an opinion of the Court (Parts I, II, II, III, and V), in which Stewart, Marshall, Blackmun, and Stevens, JJ., joined; in all but Part II of which White, J., joined; and an opinion (Part IV), in which Stewart, Marshall, and Blackmun, JJ., joined. White, J., Powell, J., and Stevens, J., filed opinions concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Burger, C. J., dissented. Rehnquist, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Arlene R. Silverman, Assistant Attorney General of New York, argued the cause for appellants. With her on the briefs were Louis J. Lefkowitz, Attorney General, and Samuel A. Hirshowitz, First Assistant Attorney General.[1]


  1. . Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed by Melvin L. Wulf, Judith M. Mears, and Rena Uviller for the American Civil Liberties Union; and by Harriet F. Pilpel and Eve W. Paul for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America et al.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse