McGee v. The Attorney General

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McGee v. The Attorney General [1974] IR 284 was a case in the Irish Supreme Court in 1974 that referenced Article 41 of the Irish Constitution.[1][2] A court ruling 4 to 1 conferred upon spouses a broad right to privacy in marital affairs.


Mary McGee was a 27-year-old mother of four at the time of the case. McGee's second and third pregnancies were complicated by severe cerebral thrombosis.[3] Also during her pregnancies she suffered from a stroke and temporary paralysis. Her condition was such that she was advised by her physician that if she would become pregnant again her life would be endangered. She was then instructed to use a diaphragm and spermicidal jelly that was prescribed to her.[4]

However, Section 17 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935 prohibited her from acquiring the prescription.


The Supreme Court ruled by a 4 to 1 majority in favor of Mary McGee, after determining that married couples have the constitutional right to make private decisions on family planning.[4]