Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Wildly Interesting First Amendment Case

There's no indication he identified his ex-girlfriend in the billboard:
A New Mexico man's decision to lash out with a billboard ad saying his ex-girlfriend had an abortion against his wishes has touched off a legal debate over free speech and privacy rights.

The sign on Alamogordo's main thoroughfare shows 35-year-old Greg Fultz holding the outline of an infant. The text reads, "This Would Have Been A Picture Of My 2-Month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To Not KILL Our Child!"
How does the First Amendment deal with speech we don't like?

6 comments:

scott mccall said...

correction...his "now ex-wife"

Ohr Taylor said...

I believe it was Voltaire who said "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

Matt Johnston said...

There are two issues presented here, First Amendment and privacy/defamation.

As for the First Amendment--it is clearly free speech. He has the right to express his views. There is no getting around it.

The second issue is a bit fuzzier. Defamation requires the publication of a falsehood. Clearly this is a publication, i.e. a public communication or a communication that is made to people other than the potential plaintiff and potential defendant. The question is whether there are people in teh general public would know who this man's baby-mama actually is. Assuming that is true, defamation only applies to a falsehood. Truth is, in most states, and absolute defense to defamation.

Thus, if the Mother had an abortion--which I assume is a fact--then it is a true statement--no matter how provocative it might be.

Speech can be vicious and quite often impolite. But when it is the truth--there can be no diminishing of the right to free speech.

Just as an aside, maybe if more fathers spoke up about their loss after an abortion--we might get some policy makers to rethink their rights in an abortion context.

Outside of rape and incest (which is often a form of rape), for a woman to get pregnant, she had to share her body with a man. If the predictable result of sexual activity occurs, should not the man have a say in the the course of the child's life. After all, if the child is born, the man (even if he does not marry the mother) is liable to support that child, even if the man didn't want the child. Why then should not the father of the child have a say in an abortion decision. (And ladies, please, don't give me the "My body, my decision" crap--you made a decision to have sex-- you can't take that back if you get pregnant--that child is half the fathers).

Darren said...

Matt,
As someone who was in his shoes, I understand his anguish and agree wholeheartedly with the points you made.

Ellen K said...

I just cannot fathom abortion as birth control, which is its main function. Anyone so lazy to not take precautions shouldn't be able to terminate a life because of inconvenience. My son has a child whose mother chose life and I shudder to think this little guy would have never been in our lives.

neko said...

But I thought it was supposed to be safe, legal and RARE. Don't tell me that we've been lied to.