Palin On The Constitutional Right to Privacy

The much publicized clip in which Sarah Palin is unable to name any Supreme Court cases other than Roe v. Wade has bee released. While this is the worst part, there are also problems in her other comments on the topic. From the interview:

Couric Why, in your view, is Roe v. Wade a bad decision?

Sarah Palin: I think it should be a states’ issue not a federal government-mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I’m, in that sense, a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. Now, foundationally, also, though, it’s no secret that I’m pro-life that I believe in a culture of life is very important for this country. Personally that’s what I would like to see, um, further embraced by America.

Couric: Do you think there’s an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

Palin: I do. Yeah, I do.

Couric: The cornerstone of Roe v. Wade.

Palin: I do. And I believe that individual states can best handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in an issue like that.

Couric: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?

Palin: Well, let’s see. There’s, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings, that’s never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but …

Couric: Can you think of any?

Palin: Well, I could think of … any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But, you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I’m so privileged to serve, wouldn’t be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.

What is unexpected here is that Palin agrees that there is an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution. Conservatives generally deny that this exists and in conceding this point Palin undermines the conservative argument against abortion rights. There’s no doubt that an argument against abortion rights might be made while conceding a general right to privacy, but it is doubtful Palin could make such an argument. It is much more likely that she simply has not paid very much attention to specific conservative beliefs on the subject. As with most of her answers, she is winging it without really understanding the issues being discussed.

Once one states that the Constitution grants a right, such as the right to privacy, then one cannot consistently leave it to the states to handle this. Extending Constitutional rights, which originally only applied to the federal government and not the states, was a point of the Fourteenth Amendment. It is also nonsensical to turn such decisions over to “the people.” The point of Constitutional restrictions on the power of government is to prevent the “tyranny of the majority.” Just as we cannot have a majority vote in any state restrict freedom of speech or freedom of the press, it makes no sense to both acknowledge a Constitutional right to privacy and then allow voters in a  state to infringe upon this right.

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