State Constitutionalism and the Right to Health Care
Elizabeth Weeks Leonard
University of Georgia School of Law
June 17, 2009
University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 12, 2010
This Article examines state constitutions and health care rights. Notably, close to a third of states’ constitutions recognize health while the U.S. Constitution contains no reference. Ample scholarly commentary exists on the absence of a right to health care under the U.S. Constitution but little attention has been paid to state constitutional law. This Article begins by explaining the absence of a federal right and the rationale for looking to state constitutional protections for health. The Article then provides a comprehensive survey of state constitutional provisions and judicial decisions enforcing or interpreting them. The survey reveals certain common themes and limits, which the Article catalogues and analyzes. The conclusion is that state constitutions, although providing stronger textual support for health than the U.S. Constitution, do not, when applied, provide significantly greater guarantees. Nevertheless, state constitutional recognition of health, as well as proposed state constitutional amendments that would expressly recognize health rights, serve as important catalysts for federal and state legislation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 82
Keywords: State constitutionalism, health care, rights
JEL Classification: I10, I18, 138, K10, K40
Date posted: June 18, 2009 ; Last revised: October 2, 2015
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