Jennifer Roback Morse

It is startling to realize that the looming battle for the Supreme Court hinges on whether nominees will pledge their support for the utterly irrational demand to suspend the law of cause and effect. For that is what the claim that we have a constitutional right to ?reproductive freedom? amounts to. All Americans are entitled to have the cause, namely, unlimited sexual activity, without ever experiencing the effect, namely, a live baby. To see the absurdity of this claim, try out a couple of analogies.
Consider eating, for instance. We can all agree that eating is a good and necessary thing, that everyone is entitled to eat. We might even agree that gourmet eating is one of life?s great pleasures. We would not conclude that everyone has a constitutional right to eat as much as they want, without ever getting heart disease, high blood pressure or other natural consequences of overeating. We could not coherently claim that every person has a constitutional right to eat without getting fat, and call it ?gastronomical freedom.? (Although, considering the number of overweight people waddling around America, maybe people do think they have such an entitlement.)

 Likewise, no one is entitled to eat as little as possible, with a guarantee that they will never succumb to anorexia. You are free to purge yourself after every meal, but you are going to create a whole string of negative consequences for yourself. The state can not reasonably promise to suspend the laws of cause and effect to provide its citizens with the gastronomical self-determination that would allow them to eat or not eat, as much or as little as they want, without any negative consequences.

 This is not an ideological argument, because it does not depend on any particular view of the proper role of the state, and the proper scope of its guarantees. Advocates of the welfare state might well argue that everyone has a right to food, at state expense if necessary. It does not logically follow from this that everyone has a right to eat nothing but butter and never get heart disease. Advocates of more minimal government might argue that people have every right to such food as they can obtain through fair market exchanges and gifts. But no libertarian would claim that people have a right to eat without consequences. No legislator in his right mind would attempt to pass a law guaranteeing such a thing. The very idea is reminiscent of a state legislature?s notorious attempt to pass a law declaring the value of ?pi? to be an even 3, rather than that irrational number with lots of pesky decimal places.

Jennifer Roback Morse

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at

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