The 10th Amendment: Roe vs Wade


The 10th Amendment is used by right to life advocates to justify the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning Roe vs Wade. Implying two distinct legislative spheres, it reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

This is the same Amendment that was used by SCOTUS to justfy the infamous Dred Scott decision (1857), defining slave/free state boundaries. Lincoln intuited its liabilities, leading to the Emancipation Proclamation (1863).

Its history is complex, Jefferson supporting it; Hamilton, opposed. It has been cited by local jurisdictions opposing federal Covid mandates.

I believe it needs revision, our founding Fathers not foreseeing the complexities of our present times. The Constitution must always give precedence to public welfare, not factional interest, whether left or right. How else could the government have rescinded segregation in the Little Rock school integration crisis of 1957, ending with Republican Dwight Eisenhower’s employment of federal troops?

I vigorously support John Stuart Mill’s principle of “disinterested benevolence,” i.e., the right of government to advocate policy conducive to society’s welfare, not factional interest: its right to impose environmental laws, construct highways, mandate taxes, allow unions, sanction military drafts, regulate commerce, provide medical access, govern immigration, ensure the liberties of marginalized entities, etc. The list is long.

Government’s true role is to ensure not only traditional freedoms, but to promote progressive policy implementation enhancing the citizenry’s collective well-being.

Simplistic, the 10th Amendment has historically proven an impediment across many fronts, seen again in the abrogation of a woman’s right to sovereignty over her own body. Contraception access may be next.

—rj

Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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