No room for women’s rights in Scalia’s originalism


For some perverse reason, there’s been an idea, prevalent for a long time, that the rights of women to make personal choices require some sort of explicit legal justification. In fact, in any rational, enlightened society, such rights should be a given, regardless of what lawyers, judges, and (most of all) politicians might say and do.

U.S. Supreme Court “Justice” Antonin Scalia has a different take.

During an interview on (July 29), Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Scalia why he believed that it is a “lie” that women have a Constitutional right to abortion.

“Nobody ever thought that the America people voted to prohibit limitations on abortions,” the 76-year-old conservative justice explained. “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says that.”

“What about the right to privacy that the court found in 1965?” Wallace pressed.

“There’s no right to privacy in the Constitution — no generalized right to privacy,” Scalia insisted.

More on originalism, and other approaches to constitutional interpretation.

Originalists think that the best way to interpret the Constitution is to determine how the Framers intended the Constitution to be interpreted. They look to several sources to determine this intent, including the contemporary writings of the framers, newspaper articles, the Federalist Papers, and the notes from the Constitutional Convention itself.

Originalists consider the original intent to be the most pure way of interpreting the Constitution; the opinions of the Framers were, for the most part, well documented. If there is an unclear turn of phrase in the Constitution, who better to explain it than those who wrote it?

What “originalism” really means, is that its adherents get to try to force their selfish, cowardly, reactionary excesses on all of us, on the grounds that that’s how they read the “intent” of the authors of the U.S. Constitution – a document produced by 18th-century post-colonial gentry (mostly, anyway), based largely on the socio-political musings of a 17th-century English philosopher (John Locke). We don’t have to get sunk in philosophy, ourselves, here. Simple common sense tells us that there is no way to a) know what was “intended” by a group of people working well over two centuries ago, in a very different world, socially and intellectually, and b) how to genuinely and effectively transfer said “intent” to our contemporary circumstances.

I don’t care how many of them went to Ivy League law schools and so forth; to put it precisely, if perhaps a tad disrespectfully, “originalist” is in fact nothing more or less than a category of “idiot.” Any “originalist” is clearly incompetent to deal effectively with a complex, changing world, and should not be in any position to exercise power over others, political or otherwise.