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Poe v. Ullman

June 19, 1961


Argued March 1, 2, 1961

Rehearing Denied October 9, 1961

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER announced the judgment of the Court and an opinion in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, Mr. Justice CLARK and Mr. Justice WHITTAKER join.

These appeals challenge the constitutionality, under the Fourteenth Amendment, of Connecticut statutes which, as authoritatively construed by the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors, prohibit the use of contraceptive devices and the giving of medical advice in the use of such devices. In proceedings seeking declarations of law, not on review of convictions for violation of the statutes, that court has ruled that these statutes would be applicable in the case of married couples and even under claim that conception would constitute a serious threat to the health or life of the female spouse.

No. 60 combines two actions brought in a Connecticut Superior Court for declaratory relief. The complaint in the first alleges that the plaintiffs, Paul and Pauline Poe,*fn1 are a husband and wife, thirty and twenty-six years old respectively, who live together and have no children. Mrs. Poe has had three consecutive pregnancies terminating in infants with multiple congenital abnormalities from which each died shortly after birth. Plaintiffs have consulted Dr. Buxton, an obstetrician and gynecologist of eminence, and it is Dr. Buxton's opinion that the cause of the infants' abnormalities is genitic, although the underlying 'mechanism' is unclear. In view of the great emotional stress already suffered by plaintiffs, the probable consequence of another pregnancy is psychological strain extremely disturbing to the physical and mental health of both husband and wife. Plaintiffs know that it is Dr. Buxton's opinion that the best and safest medical treatment which could be prescribed for their situation is advice in methods of preventing conception. Dr. Buxton knows of drugs, medicinal articles and instruments which can be safely used to effect contraception. Medically, the use of these devices is indicated as the best and safest preventive measure necessary for the protection of plaintiffs' health. Plaintiffs, however, have been unable to obtain this information for the sole reason that its delivery and use may or will be claimed by the defendant State's Attorney (appellee in this Court) to constitute offenses against Connecticut law. The State's Attorney intends to prosecute offenses against the State's laws, and claims that the giving of contraceptive advice and the use of contraceptive devices would be offenses forbidden by Conn.Gen.Stat.Rev.1958, ss 53-32 and 54-196.*fn2 Alleging irreparable injury and a substantial uncertainty of legal relations (a local procedural requisite for a declaration), plaintiffs ask a declaratory judgment that ss 53-32 and 54-196 are unconstitutional, in that they deprive the plaintiffs of life and liberty without due process of law.

The second action in No. 60 is brought by Jane Doe, a twenty-five-year-old housewife. Mrs. Doe, it is alleged, lives with her husband, they have no children; Mrs. Doe recently underwent a pregnancy which induced in her a critical physical illness-two weeks' unconsciousness and a total of nine weeks' acute sickness which left her with partial paralysis, marked impairment of speech, and emotional instability. Another pregnancy would be exceedingly perilous to her life. She, too, has consulted Dr. Buxton, who believes that the best and safest treatment for her is contraceptive advice. The remaining allegations of Mrs. Doe's complaint, and the relief sought, are similar to those in the case of Mr. and Mrs. Poe.

In No. 61, also a declaratory judgment action, Dr. Buxton is the plaintiff. Setting forth facts identical to those alleged by Jane Doe, he asks that the Connecticut statutes prohibiting his giving of contraceptive advice to Mrs. Doe be adjudged unconstitutional, as depriving him of liberty and property without due process.

In all three actions, demurrers were advanced, inter alia, on the ground that the statutes attacked had been previously construed and sustained by the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut, and thus there did not exist the uncertainty of legal relations requisite to maintain suits for declaratory judgment. While the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors in sustaining the demurrers referred to this local procedural ground, relying on State v. Nelson, 126 Conn. 412, 11 A.2d 856, and Tileston v. Ullman, 129 Conn. 84, 26 A.2d 582, appeal dismissed 318 U.S. 44, 63 S.Ct. 493, 87 L.Ed. 603, we cannot say that its decision rested on it. 147 Conn. 48, 156 A.2d 508. We noted probable jurisdiction. 362 U.S. 987, 80 S.Ct. 1077, 4 L.Ed.2d 1020.

Appellants' complaints in these declaratory judgment proceedings do not clearly, and certainly do not in terms, allege that appellee Ullman threatens to prosecute them for use of, or for giving advice concerning, contraceptive devices. The allegations are merely that, in the course of his public duty, he intends to prosecute any offenses against Connecticut law, and that he claims that use of and advice concerning contraceptives would constitute offenses. The lack of immediacy of the threat described by these allegations might alone raise serious questions of non-justiciability of appellants' claims. See United Public Workers of America (C.I.O.) v. Mitchell, 330 U.S. 75, 88, 67 S.Ct. 556, 564, 91 L.Ed. 754. But even were we to read the allegations to convey a clear threat of imminent prosecutions, we are not bound to accept as true all that is alleged on the face of the complaint and admitted, technically, by demurrer, any more than the Court is bound by stipulation of the parties. Swift & Co. v. Hocking Valley R. Co., 243 U.S. 281, 289, 37 S.Ct. 287, 289, 61 L.Ed. 722. Formal agreement between parties that collides with plausibility is too fragile a foundation for indulging in constitutional adjudication.

The Connecticut law prohibiting the use of contraceptives has been on the State's books since 1879. Conn.Acts 1879, c. 78. During the more than three-quarters of a century since its enactment, a prosecution for its violation seems never to have been initiated, save in State v. Nelson, 126 Conn. 412, 11 A.2d 856. The circumstances of that case, decided in 1940, only prove the abstract character of what is before us. There, a test case was brought to determine the constitutionality of the Act as applied against two doctors and a nurse who had allegedly disseminated contraceptive information. After the Supreme Court of Errors sustained the legislation on appeal from a demurrer to the information, the State moved to dismiss the information. Neither counsel nor our own researches have discovered any other attempt to enforce the prohibition of distribution or use of contraceptive devices by criminal process.*fn3 The unreality of these law suits is illumined by another circumstance. We were advised by counsel for appellants that contraceptives are commonly and notoriously sold in Connecticut drug stores.*fn4 Yet no prosecutions are recorded; and certainly such ubiquitous, open, public sales would mere quickly invite the attention of enforcement officials than the conduct in which the present appellants wish to engage-the giving of private medical advice by a doctor to his individual patients, and their private use of the devices prescribed. The undeviating policy of nullification by Connecticut of its anti-contraceptive laws throughout all the long years that they have been on the statute books bespeaks more than prosecutorial paralysis. What was said in another context is relevant here. 'Deeply embedded traditional ways of carrying out state policy * * *'-or not carrying it out-'are often tougher and truer law than the dead words of the written text.' Nashville, C. & St. L.R. Co. v. Browning, 310 U.S. 362, 369, 60 S.Ct. 968, 972, 84 L.Ed. 1254.

The restriction of our jurisdiction to cases and controversies within the meaning of Article III of the Constitution, see Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.S. 346, 31 S.Ct. 250, 55 L.Ed. 246, is not the sole limitation on the exercise of our appellate powers, especially in cases raising constitutional questions. The policy reflected in numerous cases and over a long period was thus summarized in the oft-quoted statement of Mr. Justice Brandeis: 'The Court (has) developed, for its own governance in the cases confessedly within its jurisdiction, a series of rules under which it has avoided passing upon a large part of all the constitutional questions pressed upon it for decision.' Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 297 U.S. 288, 341, 346, 56 S.Ct. 466, 482, 80 L.Ed. 688 (concurring opinion). In part the rules summarized in the Ashwander opinion have derived from the historically defined, limited nature and function of courts and from the recognition that, within the framework of our adversary system, the adjudicatory process is most securely founded when it is exercised under the impact of a lively conflict between antagonistic demands, actively pressed, which make resolution of the controverted issue a practical necessity. See Little v. Bowers, 134 U.S. 547, 558, 10 S.Ct. 620, 623, 33 L.Ed. 1016; People of State of California v. San Pablo & Tulare R. Co., 149 U.S. 308, 314, 13 S.Ct. 876, 878, 37 L.Ed. 747; United States v. Fruehauf, 365 U.S. 146, 157, 81 S.Ct. 547, 554, 5 L.Ed.2d 476. In part they derive from the fundamental federal and tripartite character of our National Government and from the role-restricted by its very responsibility-of the federal courts, and particularly this Court, within that structure. See the Note to Hayburn's Case, 2 Dall. 409, 1 L.Ed. 436; Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447, 488-489, 43 S.Ct. 597, 601, 67 L.Ed. 1078; Watson v. Buck, 313 U.S. 387, 400-403, 61 S.Ct. 962, 966-968, 85 L.Ed. 1416; Alabama State Federation of Labor, etc. v. McAdory, 325 U.S. 450, 471, 65 S.Ct. 1384, 1394, 89 L.Ed. 1725.

These considerations press with special urgency in cases challenging legislative action or state judicial action as repugnant to the Constitution. 'The best teaching of this Court's experience admonishes us not to entertain constitutional questions in advance of the strictest necessity.' Parker v. County of Los Angeles, 338 U.S. 327, 333, 70 S.Ct. 161, 163, 94 L.Ed. 144. See also Liverpool, N.Y. & P.S.S. Co. v. Commissioners, 113 U.S. 33, 39, 5 S.Ct. 352, 355, 28 L.Ed. 899. The various doctrines of 'standing,'*fn5 'ripeness,' *fn6 and 'mootness,'*fn7 which this Court has evolved with particular, though not exclusive, reference to such cases are but several manifestations-each having its own 'varied application'*fn8 -of the primary conception that federal judicial power is to be exercised to strike down legislation, whether state or federal, only at the instance of one who is himself immediately harmed, or immediately threatened with harm, by the challenged action. Stearns v. Wood, 236 U.S. 75, 35 S.Ct. 229, 59 L.Ed. 475; State of Texas v. Interstate Commerce Comm., 258 U.S. 158, 42 S.Ct. 261, 66 L.Ed. 531; United Public Workers of America (C.I.O.) v. Mitchell, 330 U.S. 75, 89-90, 67 S.Ct. 556, 564-565, 91 L.Ed. 754. 'This court can have no right to pronounce an abstract opinion upon the constitutionality of a State law. Such law must be brought into actual or threatened operation upon rights properly falling under judicial cognizance, or a remedy is not to be had here.' State of Georgia v. Stanton, 6 Wall. 50, 75, 18 L.Ed. 721, approvingly quoting Mr. Justice Thompson, dissenting, in Cherokee Nation v. State of Georgia, 5 Pet. 1, 75, 8 L.Ed. 25; also quoted in State of New Jersey v. Sargent, 269 U.S. 328, 331, 46 S.Ct. 122, 70 L.Ed. 289. 'The party who invokes the power (to annul legislation on grounds of its unconstitutionality) must be able to show not only that the statute is invalid, but that he has sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury as the result of its enforcement * * *.' Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447, 488, 43 S.Ct. 597, 601, 67 L.Ed. 1078.*fn9

This principle was given early application and has been recurringly enforced in the Court's refusal to entertain cases which disclosed a want of a truly adversary contest, of a collision of actively asserted and differing claims. See, e.g., Cleveland v. Chamberlain, 1 Black 419, 17 L.Ed. 93; Wood-Paper Co. v. Heft, 8 Wall. 333, 19 L.Ed. 379. Such cases may not be 'collusive' in the derogatory sense of Lord v. Veazie, 8 How. 251, 12 L.Ed. 1067-in the sense of merely colorable disputes got up to secure an advantageous ruling from the Court. See South Spring Hill Gold Mining Co. v. Amador Medean Gold Mining Co., 145 U.S. 300, 301, 12 S.Ct. 921, 36 L.Ed. 712. The Court has found unfit for adjudication any cause that 'is not in any real sense adversary,' that 'does not assume the 'honest and actual antagonistic assertion of rights' to be adjudicated-a safeguard essential to the integrity of the judicial process, and one which we have held to be indispensable to adjudication of constitutional questions by this Court.' United States v. Johnson, 319 U.S. 302, 305, 63 S.Ct. 1075, 1076, 87 L.Ed. 1413. The requirement for adversity was classically expounded in Chicago & Grand Trunk R. Co. v. Wellman, 143 U.S. 339, 344-345, 12 S.Ct. 400, 402, 36 L.Ed. 176:

'* * * The theory upon which, apparently, this suit was brought is that parties have an appeal from the legislature to the courts; and that the latter are given an immediate and general supervision of the constitutionality of the acts of the former. Such is not true. Whenever, in pursuance of an honest and actual antagonistic assertion of rights by one individual against another, there is presented a question involving the validity of any act of any legislature, State or Federal, and the decision necessarily rests on the competency of the legislature to so enact, the court must, in the exercise of its solemn duties, determine whether the act be constitutional or not; but such an exercise of power is the ultimate and supreme function of courts. It is legitimate only in the last resort, and as a necessity in the determination of real, earnest and vital controversy between individuals. It never was the thought that, by means of a friendly suit, a party beaten in the legislature could transfer to the courts an inquiry as to the constitutionality of the legislative act.'

What was said in the Wellman case found ready application in proceedings brought under modern declaratory judgment procedures. For just as the declaratory judgment device does not 'purport to alter the character of the controversies which are the subject of the judicial power under the Constitution,' United States v. State of West Virginia, 295 U.S. 463, 475, 55 S.Ct. 789, 793, 79 L.Ed. 1546, it does not permit litigants to invoke the power of this Court to obtain constitutional rulings in advance of necessity. Electric Bond & Share Co. v. Securities and Exchange Comm., 303 U.S. 419, 443, 58 S.Ct. 678, 687, 82 L.Ed. 936. The Court has been on the alert against use of the declaratory judgment device for avoiding the rigorous insistence on exigent adversity as a condition for evoking Court adjudication. This is as true of state court suits for declaratory judgments as of federal. By exercising their jurisdiction, state courts cannot determine the jurisdiction to be exercised by this Court. Tyler v. Judges of the Court of Registration, 179 U.S. 405, 21 S.Ct. 206, 45 L.Ed. 252; Doremus v. Board of Education, 342 U.S. 429, 72 S.Ct. 394, 96 L.Ed. 475. Although we have held that a state declaratory-judgment suit may constitute a case or controversy within our appellate jurisdiction, it is to be reviewed here only 'so long as the case retains the essentials of an adversary proceeding, involving a real, not a hypothetical, controversy, which is finally determined by the judgment below.' Nashville, C. & St. L.R. Co. v. Wallace, 288 U.S. 249, 264, 53 S.Ct. 345, 348, 77 L.Ed. 730. It was with respect to a state-originating declaratory judgment proceeding that we said, in Alabama State Federation of Labor, etc. v. McAdory, 325 U.S. 450, 471, 65 S.Ct. 1384, 1394, 89 L.Ed. 1725, that 'The extent to which the declaratory judgment procedure may be used in the federal courts to control state action lies in the sound discretion of the Court. * * *' Indeed, we have recognized, in such cases, that '* * * the discretionary element characteristic of declaratory jurisdiction, and imported perhaps from equity jurisdiction and practice without the remedial phase, offers a convenient instrument for making * * * effective * * *.' the policy against premature constitutional decision. Rescue Army v. Municipal Court, 331 U.S. 549, 573, note 41, 67 S.Ct. 1409, 1422, 91 L.Ed. 1666.

Insofar as appellants seek to justify the exercise of our declaratory power by the threat of prosecution, facts which they can no more negative by complaint and demurrer than they could by stipulation preclude our determining their appeals on the merits. Cf. Bartemeyer v. State of Iowa, 18 Wall. 129, 134-135, 21 L.Ed. 929. It is clear that the mere existence of a state penal statute would constitute insufficient grounds to support a federal court's adjudication of its constitutionality in proceedings brought against the State's prosecuting officials if real threat of enforcement is wanting. See Ex parte La Prade, 289 U.S. 444, 458, 53 S.Ct. 682, 77 L.Ed. 1311. If the prosecutor expressly agrees not to prosecute, a suit against him for declaratory and injunctive relief is not such an adversary case as will be reviewed here. C.I.O. v. McAdory, 325 U.S. 472, 475, 65 S.Ct. 1395, 1397, 89 L.Ed. 1741. Eighty years of Connecticut history demonstrate a similar, albeit tacit agreement. The fact that Connecticut has not chosen to press the enforcement of this statute deprives these controversies of the immediacy which is an indispensable condition of constitutional adjudication. This Court cannot be umpire to debates concerning harmless, empty shadows. To find it necessary to pass on these statutes now, in order to protect appellants from the hazards of prosecution, would be to close our eyes to reality.

Nor does the allegation by the Poes and Doe that they are unable to obtain information concerning contraceptive devices from Dr. Buxton, 'for the sole reason that the delivery and use of such information and advice may or will be claimed by the defendant State's Attorney to constitute offenses,' disclose a necessity for present constitutional decision. It is true that this Court has several times passed upon criminal statutes challenged by persons who claimed that the effects of the statutes were to deter others from maintaining profitable or advantageous relations with the complainants. See, e.g., Truax v. Raich, 239 U.S. 33, 36 S.Ct. 7, 60 L.Ed. 131; Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070. But in these cases the deterrent effect complained of was one which was grounded in a realistic fear of prosecution. We cannot agree that if Dr. Buxton's compliance with these statutes is uncoerced by the risk of their enforcement, his patients are entitled to a declaratory judgment concerning the statutes' validity. And, with due regard to Dr. Buxton's standing as a physician and to his personal sensitiveness, we cannot accept, as the basis of constitutional adjudication, other than as chimerical the fear of enforcement of provisions that have during so many years gone uniformly and without exception unenforced.

Justiciability is of course not a legal concept with a fixed content or susceptible of scientific verification. Its utilization is the resultant of many subtle pressures, including the appropriateness of the issues for decision by this Court and the actual hardship to the litigants of denying them the relief sought. Both these factors justify withholding adjudication of the constitutional issue raised under the circumstances and in the manmer in which they are now before the Court.


Mr. Justice BLACK dissents because he believes that the constitutional questions should be reached and decided.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN, concurring in the judgment.

I agree that this appeal must be dismissed for failure to present a real and substantial controversy which unequivocally calls for adjudication of the rights claimed in advance of any attempt by the State to curtail them by criminal prosecution. I am not convinced, on this skimpy record, that these appellants as individuals are truly caught in an inescapable dilemma. The true controversy in this case is over the opening of birth-control clinics on a large scale; it is that which the State has prevented in the past, not the use of contraceptives by isolated and individual married couples. It will be time enough to decide the constitutional questions urged upon us when, if ever, that real controversy flares up again. Until it does, or until the State makes a definite and concrete threat to enforce these laws against individual married couples-a threat which it has never made in the past except under the provocation of litigation-this Court may not be compelled to exercise its most delicate power of constitutional adjudication.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, dissenting.


These cases are dismissed because a majority of the members of this Court conclude, for varying reasons, that this controversy does not present a justiciable question. That conclusion is too transparent to require an extended reply. The device of the declaratory judgment is an honored one. Its use in the federal system is restricted to 'cases' or 'controversies' within the meaning of Article III. The question must be 'appropriate for judicial determination,' not hypothetical, abstract, academic or moot. Aetna Life Ins. Co. of Hartford, Conn. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 240, 57 S.Ct. 461, 464, 81 L.Ed. 617. It must touch 'the legal relations of parties having adverse legal interests.' Id., 300 U.S. at pages 240-241, 57 S.Ct. at page 464. It must be 'real and substantial' and admit of 'specific relief through a decree of a conclusive character.' Id., 300 U.S. at page 241, 57 S.Ct. at page 464. The fact that damages are not awarded or an injunction does not issue, the fact that there are no allegations of irreparable injury are irrelevant. Id., 300 U.S. at page 241, 57 S.Ct. at page 464. This is hornbook law. The need for this remedy in the federal field was summarized in a Senate Report as follows:

'* * * it is often necessary, in the absence of the declaratory judgment procedure, to violate or purport to violate a statute in order to obtain a judicial determination of its meaning or validity.' S.Rep. No. 1005, 73d Cong., 2d Sess., pp. 2-3.

If there is a case where the need for this remedy in the shadow of a criminal prosecution is shown, it is this one, as Mr. Justice HARLAN demonstrates. Plaintiffs in No. 60 are two sets of husband and wife. One wife is pathetically ill, having delivered a stillborn fetus. If she becomes pregnant again, her life will be gravely jeopardized. This couple have been unable to get medical advice concerning the 'best and safest' means to avoid pregnancy from their physician, plaintiff in No. 61, because if he gave it he would commit a crime. The use of contraceptive devices would also constitute a crime. And it is alleged-and admitted by the State-that the State's Attorney intends to enforce the law by prosecuting offenses under the laws.

A public clinic dispensing birth-control information has indeed been closed by the State. Doctors and a nurse working in that clinic were arrested by the police and charged with advising married women on the use of contraceptives. That litigation produced State v. Nelson, 126 Conn. 412, 11 A.2d 856, which upheld these statutes. That same police raid on the clinic resulted in the seizure of a quantity of the clinic's contraception literature and medical equipment and supplies. The legality of that seizure was in question in State v. Certain Contraceptive Materials, 126 Conn. 428, 11 A.2d 863.

The Court refers to the Nelson prosecution as a 'test case' and implies that it had little impact. Yet its impact was described differently by a contemporary observer who concluded his comment with this sentence: 'This serious setback to the birth control movement (the Nelson case) led to the closing of all the clinics in the state, just as they had been previously closed in the state of Massachusetts.'*fn10 At oral argument, counsel for appellants confirmed that the clinics are still closed. In response to a question from the bench, he affirmed that 'no public or private clinic' has dared give birth-control advice since the decision in the Nelson case.*fn11

These, then, are the circumstances in which the Court feels that it can, contrary to every principle of American or English common law,*fn12 go outside the record to conclude that there exists a 'tacit agreement' that these statutes will not be enforced. No lawyer, I think, would advise his clients to rely on that 'tacit agreement.' No police official, I think, would feel himself bound by that 'tacit agreement.' After our national experience during the prohibtion era, it would be absurd to pretend that all criminal statutes are adequately enforced. But that does not mean that bootlegging was the less a crime. Cf. Costello v. United States, 365 U.S. 265, 81 S.Ct. 534, 5 L.Ed.2d 551. In fact, an arbitrary administrative pattern of non-enforcement may increase the hardships of those subject to the law. See J. Goldstein, Police Discretion Not to Invoke the Criminal Process, 69 Yale L.J. 543.

When the Court goes outside the record to determine that Connecticut has adopted 'The undeviating policy of nullification * * * of its anti-contraceptive laws,' it selects a particularly poor case in which to exercise such a novel power. This is not a law which is a dead letter. Twice since 1940, Connecticut has reenacted these laws as part of general statutory revisions. Consistently, bills to remove the statutes from the books have been rejected by the legislature. In short, the statutes-far from being the accidental left-overs of another era-are the center of a continuing controversy in the State. See, e.g., The New Republic, May 19, 1947, p. 8.

Again, the Court relies on the inability of counsel to show any attempts, other than the Nelson case, 'to enforce the prohibition of distribution or use of contraceptive devices by criminal process.' Yet, on oral argument, counsel for the appellee stated on his own knowledge that several proprietors had been prosecuted in the 'minor police courts of Connecticut' after they had been 'picked up' for selling contraceptives. The enforcement of criminal laws in minor courts has just as much impact as in those cases where appellate courts are resorted to. The need of the protection of constitutional guarantees, and the right to them, are not less because the matter is small or the court lowly. See Thompson v. City of Louisville, 362 U.S. 199, 80 S.Ct. 624, 4 L.Ed.2d 654; Tumey v. State of Ohio, 273 U.S. 510, 47 S.Ct. 437, 71 L.Ed. 749. Nor is the need lacking because the dispensing of birth-control information is by a single doctor rather than by birth-control clinics. The nature of the controversy would not be changed one iota had a dozen doctors, representing a dozen birth-control clinics, sued for remedial relief.

What are these people-doctor and patients-to do? Flout the law and go to prison? Violate the law surreptitiously and hope they will not get caught? By today's decision we leave them no other alternatives. It is not the choice they need have under the regime of the declaratory judgment and our constitutional system. It is not the choice worthy of a civilized society. A sick wife, a concerned husband, a conscientious doctor seek a dignified, discrete, orderly answer to the critical problem confronting them. We should not turn them away and make them flout the law and get arrested to have their constitutional rights determined. See Railway Mail Ass'n v. Corsi, 326 U.S. 88, 65 S.Ct. 1483, 89 L.Ed. 2072. They are entitled to an answer to their predicament here and now.


The right of the doctor to advise his patients according to his best lights seems so obviously within First Amendment rights as to need no extended discussion. The leading cases on freedom of expression are generally framed with reference to public debate and discourse. But as Chafee said, 'the First Amendment and other parts of the law erect a fence inside which men can talk. The law-makers, legislators and officials stay on the outside of that fence. But what the men inside the fence say when they are let alone is no concern of the law.' The Blessings of Liberty (1956), p. 108.

The teacher (Sweezy v. State of New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 77 S.Ct. 1203, 1 L.Ed.2d 1311) as well as the public speaker (Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516, 65 S.Ct. 315, 89 L.Ed. 430) is included. The actor on stage or screen, the artist whose creation is in oil or clay or marble, the poet whose reading public may be practically nonexistent, the musician and his musical scores, the counselor whether priest, parent or teacher no matter how small his audience-these too are beneficiaries of freedom of expression. The remark by President James A. Garfield that his ideal of a college was a log in the woods with a student at one end and Mark Hopkins at another (9 Dict.Am Biog., p. 216) puts the present problem in proper First Amendment dimensions. Of course a physician can talk freely and fully with his patient without threat of retaliation by the State. The contrary thought-the one endorsed sub silentio by the courts below-has the cast of regimentation about it, a cast at war with the philosophy and presuppositions of this free society.

We should say with Kant that 'It is absurd to expect to be enlightened by Reason, and at the same time to prescribe to her what side of the question she must adopt.'*fn13 Leveling the discourse of medical men to the morality of a particular community is a deadening influence. Mill spoke of the pressures of intolerant groups that produce 'either mere conformers to commonplace, or time-servers for truth.'*fn14 We witness in this case a sealing of the lips of a doctor because he desires to observe the law, obnoxious as the law may be. The State has no power to put any sanctions of any kind on him for any views or beliefs that he has or for any advice he renders. These are his professional domains into which the State may not intrude. The chronicles are filled with sad attempts of government to stomp out ideas, to ban thoughts because they are heretical or obnoxious. As Mill stated, 'Our merely social intolerance kills no one, roots out no opinions, but induces men to disguise them, or to abstain from any active effort for their diffusion.'*fn15 When that happens society suffers. Freedom working underground, freedom bootlegged around the law is freedom crippled. A society that tells its doctors under pain of criminal ...

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