An Abortion Exception to the First Amendment?
Evaluating Recent Efforts to Regulate Speech About Pregnancy Options
By Mark L. Rienzi
December 23, 2010
Abortion is a highly-charged and intensely-debated issue. Partisans on both sides believe abortion implicates fundamental human rights, with abortion supporters comparing abortion prohibitions to slavery, and abortion opponents comparing a permissive abortion regime to the holocaust. Some people believe so strongly that abortion should be available that they endure protests, threats, and physical violence to provide a service they deem critically important. Others refuse to refer or provide for abortions under any circumstances.
This intense debate extends to virtually every aspect of the abortion controversy. For example, the two sides strongly dispute the history of abortion, and particularly whether it was a crime at common law. They disagree about the scientific facts concerning abortion, such as at what stage a fetus suffers pain during an abortion, or whether abortion can result in adverse health consequences such as breast cancer, future difficulty having children, and psychological trauma. They cannot even agree on issues of language related to abortion. Not surprisingly, speakers on both sides of this intense abortion debate frequently cite to the information that supports their view. The Court in Roe, for example, cited to the work of historians working for NARAL in order to claim that abortion may not have been recognized as a common law crime. Roe’s
critics, of course, tell a very different story. Those seeking to persuade women to have abortions cite the studies that say it does not cause breast cancer and minimize those that suggest that it does. Those seeking to dissuade women from having abortions emphasize those studies that do show an increased risk of health problems, including breast cancer.
What does the Constitution say about this state of affairs? the rest