Fact Check: Does the US Constitution guarantee a right to life?

By Eric Beasley

So I may not be a lawyer, and I have not memorized the US Constitution, but lucky for people without eidetic memories, such documents are readily available online.

At the 6th District debate, Candidate Chris Mason said “The Constitution says that we have the right to life…the right to life…. it says life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s exactly what it says in the preamble to the Constitution.” You can watch this interaction here:

During this exchange, you can see the “only lawyer” running for Congress Robin Ficker nodding in visible agreement.

So does the US Constitution say that? No, no it doesn’t. There is no mention of the right to life in the US Constitution. In fact, there is only one instance of the word “life” used in the entire document, under Article III Section 3:

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

I am very confident that Mr. Mason was not referencing the ability of Congress to hand out the death penalty to people who commit treason.

Exact text of the preamble to the US Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

What Mr. Mason was actually referencing was the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, which states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness

So the statement was in the Declaration of Independence, not in the US Constitution. Which brings us to the next logical question, is the Declaration of Independence a legally binding document in our country? The Heritage Foundation has already answered this question for us:

The first of the four organic laws of the United States, the Declaration may lack legal force but remains nonetheless the source of all legitimate political authority.

If this document was legally enforceable, then why were some men (Blacks, Asians, Irish) not treated equally for another hundred years? Simple, because the Declaration of Independence cannot be used for legal precedent. It is a position paper, written by a collection of men stating their intent to form a new government.

I get what you were trying to say Mr. Mason. But next time, cite the right document.