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What is the Ninth Amendment of the US Constitution?

By Matthew F.
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Ninth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects all of the rights of the people that are not mentioned specifically elsewhere in the Constitution. It was a part of the original Bill of Rights drafted in 1787 and ratified in 1791. The rights protected are referred to as “unenumerated” rights, and include those inferred by other legal rights, as well as natural, fundamental, and background ones. It combines with the Tenth Amendment to protect the rights and situations not provided for in the previous eight amendments.

This amendment is used to protect the citizenry from any expansion of governmental power because of the limited nature of the Bill of Rights. Because every right of the people of the United States could not possibly be mentioned in the Constitution, the Ninth Amendment was added to supplement those already mentioned. The amendment protects many rights implied in a universal civil code, and those that are linked to other rights already declared. It protects these personal liberties from state and federal infringement.

The Supreme Court is bound by a common sense guide when interpreting the fundamentals of the rights covered by the amendment. They have in some cases used it to their advantage, declaring actions of the people as natural, unenumerated rights, like the right to abortion in Roe v. Wade. Others, Supreme Court judges among them, have argued that the amendment simply prohibits the denial of rights not mentioned in the first amendment. It does not, argued Antonin Scalia in 2000, give judges the power to determine what these additional rights are.

The history of the Ninth Amendment was one of the most controversial of the Bill of Rights. It was strongly supported by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Many among the ratifying conventions in 1787 proposed the allowance for further amendments as the need for additional rights arose, which was implemented. For some, however, this was not enough. The Virginia Ratifying Convention attempted to appease the Federalists of Hamilton and Madison by proposing an amendment which would give Congress the power to make exceptions to rights not enumerated, but not to extend the powers of Congress.

The first eight amendments of the Constitution provide for the means for Congress to address the rights listed. The Ninth, however, addresses the rights that have not been put into the hands of the governments, and these rights have been the subject of many Supreme Court decisions, as well as many arguments over levels of power and discretion in the higher ranks of the judicial and executive branches.

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Discussion Comments
By anon991471 — On Jun 23, 2015

For an article on the 9th amendment, it would be nice to actually write out the words of the amendment.

By anon309218 — On Dec 15, 2012

Although some Supreme Court Justices have recognized certain rights such as abortion by the Ninth Amendment, a majority of the Supreme Court has never recognized any right not mentioned in the Constitution. For all practical purposes, the Ninth Amendment is irrelevant to Constitutional law and should be regarded as dead.

By anon144305 — On Jan 19, 2011

The Amendment protects the lives of humans. Just because it's not mentioned in the Bill of Rights, does make it right to deny people their fundamental right to live in a nation of laws.

Privacy rights are a great example of this amendment. Just think: people could walk all over the fourth amendment, search and seizure, if it weren't for the rights in the Ninth Amendment.

By anon115144 — On Sep 30, 2010

pocurana: i agree completely. this is really confusing me.

By anon115066 — On Sep 30, 2010

A part of the health care bill allows for the government to eavesdrop on all purchases and sales of gold, could this be in violation of the ninth amendment or any other amendment?

By anon93908 — On Jul 06, 2010

In response to 'pocurana' I believe, personally that this Amendment states, in all its vagueness, that as long as a person is not harming any property or any other person, then it can be a right for said person to do so. Big example would be whether a person should be allowed to smoke cigarettes or not. The person who is smoking, under most circumstances, is only hurting themselves in the long run.

By anon81445 — On May 01, 2010

Thanks. This helped me a lot with what I am doing.

By anon76681 — On Apr 11, 2010

thank you.

By pocurana — On Nov 06, 2009

I don't get this amendment. It's so vague. I understand that it played a big part in identifying the constitutional right to privacy, but to protect rights not otherwise mentioned? Couldn't that create a right in almost anything? And Scalia's statement -- wouldn't that preclude the constitutional privacy right?

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