Natural rights

George Will, in The Conservative Sensibility, says the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution “should be construed in the bright light cast by the Declaration’s affirmation of natural rights.” And, “a government constructed on the assumptions of natural rights must be limited government. The natural rights theory is that individuals in the state of nature possess rights that pre-exist government; that government is created for the limited purpose of securing those rights….” (p. xxix)

Will espouses (p. xxiv) “the exercise of natural rights within a spacious zone of personal sovereignty guaranteed by governments instituted to serve as guarantors of those rights.” I would include in that “spacious zone” a woman’s reproductive self-determination among the Declaration’s “self-evident” truths and “inalienable rights.”

Justice Robert Jackson said (p. xxiii), “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials, and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. …Fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

Has Dobbs v. Jackson reduced the “spacious zone of personal sovereignty” for American women? Does Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion foreshadow further reductions in that “spacious zone?” Is this really a “conservative” decision, or does it launch a new era of intrusive government?

From “Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade ‘will have huge political ramifications,’” by Sarah Grucza, Harvard Kennedy School, June 24, 2022

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