Constitution Daily

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Ninth Amendment: Non-Enumerated Rights Retained by People

February 9, 2014 by NCC Staff


As part of the National Constitution Center’s 27 Amendments (In 27 Days) project, each day we will look at a constitutional amendment. Through partnerships with leading scholars and universities, government agencies, media outlets, and more, the National Constitution Center will profile one amendment each day throughout the month of February.


theconstitutionFull Text of the Ninth Amendment


The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.




Failure of the Constitution to mention a specific right does not mean that the government can abridge that right, but its protection has to be found elsewhere. Source:  U.S. Senate




When the anti-Federalists originally proposed a Bill of Rights, the Federalists responded that listing rights was unnecessary or dangerous, since the enumeration of certain natural or fundamental rights might indicate that others not listed were unprotected. The Ninth Amendment answers this fear by providing a rule of construction: Don’t assume that if a right isn’t listed in the Bill of Rights it isn’t protected by the Constitution. What the Ninth Amendment doesn’t do is to provide a constitutional methodology for identifying which unenumerated rights are constitutionally protected. Debates over this question have inspired some of the most heated constitutional controversies of the 20th century, such as the 1965 Griswold privacy case recognizing a right of married couples to use contraception. In Griswold, Justice Goldberg said the Ninth Amendment protected rights “basic and fundamental and so deep-rooted in our society” even though “that right is not guaranteed in so many words by the first eight amendments.”




1. The Library of Congress Constitution Annotated. Contains a detailed history of the amendment, along with past and recent court cases. Here is a link to the section on the Ninth  Amendment. Here are explanations from the LOC that are in an online-friendly format from FindLaw.


2. Cornell Legal Information Institute. Includes information from Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia sponsored and hosted by the Legal Information Institute at the Cornell Law School. Wex entries are collaboratively created and edited by legal experts.


3. On the Oyez Project, you can read the Supreme Court’s decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, which contains a discussion about the Ninth Amendment and the right to privacy in marital relations. This case includes Justice Goldberg’s statement that, “the Framers did not intend that the first eight amendments be construed to exhaust the basic and fundamental rights which the Constitution guaranteed to the people.”


Learn more about this project at the Constitution Center’s website at:


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