April 1, 2012

Does SCOTUS Really Care About Liberty?

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The Supreme Court has been the focus of much attention in anticipation of their forthcoming ruling on Obama’s health insurance mandate. The mandate was legislated as a part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — more pejoratively known as ObamaCare — and is considered a critical part of the Act’s ability to lower health care costs and extend insurance coverage. Though originally a Republican idea, conservatives have protested the provision by arguing that a federal mandate to purchase insurance is an illegitimate exercise of government authority, and represents a clear affront to the liberty of the American people. The Supreme Court appears ready to agree, with many expecting the mandate to be overturned be a margin of 5-4.

Curiously, the justices appear to be much less concerned with liberty when an individual’s body is in question. On Monday the Court decided by a margin of 5-4 that Americans detained in jail could be legally subjected to a strip search, regardless of how minor the crime they’re accused of is. It’s an extreme case, but one could hypothetically be arrested for jaywalking and be forced to undergo humiliating and traumetizing search.

On the other hand, there exists a very legitimate justification for such searches: Jails are dangerous places, and in the interest of security, guards must be able to ensure that no contraband finds its way within a prison’s walls. But it’s also frightening to think of the potential for such a ruling to be exploited, with strip searches becoming a tool of intimidation and abuse. More worrisome still is the seemingly disparate conceptions of liberty the Supreme Court holds for one’s body as opposed to one’s purchases. Mandatory insurance to lower health care costs and keep people covered? How dare the government encroach on our precious freedoms!

Mandatory strip searches any time you’re held in jail? Shut up and bend over! It’s a sad day in America when you’re more likely to get a colonoscopy in a jail than in a doctor’s office.

Original Author: David Murdter