Ken Connor
Balancing rights: privacy v. life
By Ken Connor
December 3, 2010

There's been much controversy in recent weeks over the issue of full body scans and pat-downs at airport security checkpoints across America. Individuals from all points on the political and ideological spectrum are angry and speaking out against practices that they assert violate civil liberties and undermine human dignity. Much in the same way that the Patriot Act thrust the "privacy v. security" conundrum into the foreground of the public's attention, the kerfuffle begun by John "Don't Touch My Junk" Tyner has ignited a national debate about how far our society is willing to go to ensure the safety of air travel in America. President Obama, for his part, acknowledges the inconvenience posed by the new TSA procedures, but insists that they are necessary to ensure our safety in an era of pervasive terror threats (

Upon hearing the President's rationalization of full body scans and vigorous pat-downs, I can't help but be struck by this Administration's inconsistent and unprincipled approach to personal privacy issues. Ever since the Supreme Court issued the Griswold v. Connecticut decision in 1965, the American Left has vigorously defended the constitutional "penumbras" guaranteeing an individual "right" to privacy. This understanding of individual privacy led the Court to decide in 1973 that a woman's right to privacy trumps her unborn child's right to life.

Over time, the right of "privacy" has morphed into the infamous "right to choose," a rhetorical device so powerfully employed by feminists that it has defined the worldview of a generation of young women and eclipsed the fact that the grotesque object of the "choice" in question, is the choice to kill an innocent unborn child. The insidiously abstract "right to choose" is something that Mr. Obama has always defended, even to the point that he opposed a law that would allow doctors to provide life-saving treatment to infants that survive abortion.

Contrast this position with his support of the TSA's new security measures, measures which entail an embarrassing invasion of personal privacy. In this instance, President Obama is supporting a government infringement upon the personal privacy of millions of American travelers based upon an ambiguous and largely unquantifiable threat. The fear of the unknown, after all, is a powerful motivator, and the President has chosen to take the safe road. Better safe sorry, right? Better to err on the side of protecting life at the cost of a little personal privacy than risk the loss of hundreds and, perhaps, thousands of innocent lives, right?

Applying the President's logic, one would hope that he would take note of the fact that, since 1973, the lives of 50 million unborn children have been sacrificed on the altar of personal privacy. And upon taking such note, one would hope that the President would reconsider — in light of his appreciation of the terror threat America faces in this post-9/11 world — that there is little virtue in adhering to an abstract principle when adherence to that principle costs innocents their lives. The right of individuals to be free from unwarranted government intrusion in their private affairs is highly prized by all Americans, but that right is not absolute. It must be weighed in the balance against the right to life, and when the right to life is at stake, the right to privacy must yield.

An individual's right to travel unmolested by an over-earnest TSA must be weighed against the realities of the terror threat, the federal government's responsibility to ensure national security, and his fellow passengers' right to fly safely. Similarly, a woman's "right" to privacy, or choice — choose your "penumbra" — ends at her unborn child's right to life. No amount of rhetorical obfuscation or wallowing in abstractions will change that fact.

President Obama appears to have a firm grasp on the former principle, but is unable, or unwilling, to connect the dots in the latter. This kind of inconsistency is exactly why Americans have so little respect for their government and the politicians that run it. The American people's anger with the TSA is sure to blow over, but those who believe the right to life is the most sacred liberty Americans enjoy will never stop advocating for the rights of those who cannot speak or defend themselves.

© Ken Connor


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