“Justice Thomas Targets ‘Wrongly-Decided’ Privacy Rights Precedents, Scholar Warns

 “Justice Thomas Targets ‘Wrongly-Decided’ Privacy Rights Precedents, Scholar Warns

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Amid heightened political and judicial tensions, a prominent constitutional scholar has issued a dire warning that the GOP is poised to challenge a cornerstone U.S. Supreme Court decision that has shaped personal liberties in America for decades. The landmark case, Griswold v. Connecticut, recognized the right to privacy, which underpins rights related to contraception, abortion, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion that accompanied the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade two years ago, explicitly called for a reevaluation of several major precedents, including Griswold. “The Court should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Thomas wrote, signaling a potential rollback of rights associated with privacy and personal autonomy.

These cases are grounded in the substantive due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which protect against the government depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This principle was pivotal in the 1965 decision in Griswold, which invalidated a Connecticut law banning contraception, citing privacy rights among other grounds.

The assault on these established rights has been reinvigorated in recent months. Notably, U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), amid her re-election campaign, criticized the Griswold decision, aligning herself with far-right factions opposed to these privacy protections. “Constitutionally unsound rulings like Griswold vs. Connecticut, Kelo v. the City of New London, and NFIB vs. Sebelius confuse Tennesseans and left Congress wondering who gave the court permission to bypass our system of checks and balances,” Blackburn stated in a 2022 video, as TIME reported in 2022.

This stance has resurfaced in a controversial social media post by the Biden re-election campaign, emphasizing the ongoing political struggle over these rights. Harvard University Professor Emeritus Laurence Tribe, a respected authority on constitutional law, responded to the situation with urgency. Addressing the implications of the GOP’s judicial strategy, Tribe criticized the “Trumpers” for their aggressive push to dismantle the Griswold precedent, highlighting its foundational role in supporting the federal rights to privacy and personal autonomy.

“The Trumpers are now going for the jugular in attacking the great 1965 precedent on which nearly all federal rights of privacy and personal autonomy depend, Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, upholding the right to use contraceptives when having sexual relations,” Tribe warned. As the political and judicial landscapes converge, the battle over these fundamental rights is set to intensify, with significant implications for privacy, autonomy, and equality in the United States.

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