In order to assuage a conspiracy theorist constituent's worries about the government implanting microchips into its workers and school children, decidedly pro-life Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday found himself clinging to the right-to-privacy tenet in one of the Supreme Court rulings he hates the most: Roe v. Wade. Here's video of the town hall meeting and the exchange that has since surfaced:
And here's the text of the exchange:
Constituent: They’re saying that they’re going to start, in 2013, putting microchips in government workers and then any kid that enrolls in school, starting in pre-school, will have a microchip implanted in them so that they can track them. Is that true?
Grassley: No. First of all, nothing can be done to your body without your permission.
Grassley: It’d be a violation of the constitutional right to privacy if that were to happen.
Okay. Obviously, that whole "nothing can be done to your body without your permission" line is sort of curious: For women who would like to have an abortion, Grassley's pro-life stance rather obviously tries to force them to to do something to their bodies — namely, push a child through it.
But what the oops-watchers are focusing on that last part, in particular the "violation of a constitutional right to privacy" line. Because that does not exist. In fact, the majority opinion of Roe v. Wade clearly states:
The Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy. In a line of decisions, however, going back perhaps as far as Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250, 251 (1891), the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution
Roe v. Wade, of course, established the right to privacy — the kind that might spare you from a government conspiracy to embed microchips that might reveal your entire health history. Or, you know, the kind of privacy that allows women to obtain a legal abortion in this country:
This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.
So it's not exactly a defense of Roe v. Wade per se, but that's the only thing close enough to a constitutional right to privacy these days. Which is strange, because as far back as 1988, Grassley has insisted that he wants to overturn the decision. He currently has a 0 rating from NARAL, a pro-choice reproductive rights organization. And in June of last year, when the Senate voted to end a filibuster of Judge Andrew Hurwitz, President Obama's pick for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Grassley voiced a strong opinion of Roe v. Wade and its judicial activism. CNN reported:
I think by any fair measure, it is impossible to read Justice Hurwitz's article and not conclude that he wholeheartedly embraces Roe, and importantly, the constitutional arguments that supposedly support it ... He takes this view despite near universal agreement, among both liberal and conservative legal scholars, that Roe is one of the worst examples of judicial activism in our nation's history," Grassley said.
That's the same judicial activism that helped usher in the "constitutional right to privacy" (which again, isn't laid out in the constitution) to which Grassley so adamantly referred back home in Iowa.
On a side note, in case you were wondering where that screwball conspiracy theory came from:
What the what? Government microchips? We did some (shallow) digging and found that the constituent probably received an e-mail like, this, which Snopes collected:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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