From Whence Cometh Our Rights?

“You gotta fight for your right to party!” This famous declaration of independence by a cadre of seasoned philosophers (the Beastie Boys) brings up the most important questions about rights – where do they come from, and how do we fight for them?

Webster says that a right is, “something to which one has a just claim.” In my ethics class, I defined rights as,”privileges granted to a person or group of persons by someone who has the power and/or authority (thus making it just) to grant the right and who intends to defend that right given to the grantee. Typically, rights are granted in writing such that the grantee can find and make a claim to the right as having been given on a certain day and recorded in a certain document. “

The right to an abortion in our country was granted by the legislatures of New York, Alaska, and Washington between 1970 and 1973. These legislatures (likely primarily old white men) Before 1970, there was no right to abortion in the United States. This right does not just float out there in the ether for us to claim as we will. It must be granted and recorded.

In 1973, seven Supreme Court justices (all old old white men) determined that the constitution implies a right to an abortion, thus forming the legal and written basis for a national right to an abortion. To make this as clear as possible – the national right to an abortion was created in in 1973 with the Roe decision. For three years previous to that, three states had rights to abortion.

Fast forward to 50 years and 60 million abortions later.

Now, with Dobbs, six Supreme Court justices (four old white men, one old black man, and one woman) determined that Roe was decided incorrectly and struck it down – effectively making it the law of the land that there is no US national right to an abortion.

So, we are back to where we were in the days before Roe. Individual state legislatures will hash out granting abortion rights or not as they see fit. This is where the fight for the right will occur. They will fight over whether or not to create new state abortion rights, and this is what the Dobbs court determined: abortion should be in the hands of the legislatures of the various states and ultimately in the hands of the citizens therein.

For a related post see “Write and Wrong” posted June 2022.


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For His Glory,


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