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.