Jilted Ex-Boyfriend Puts Up Libelous Billboard, Hides Behind Free Speech
A woman consents to, all on her own pretty self, and undergoes a common, perfectly legal medical procedure. Her ex-boyfriend, vexed that the woman had the procedure against his wishes, puts up a billboard making unsupported claims about her medical history, and falsely accusing her of committing a crime.
The ex-boyfriend's attorney argues this is a First Amendment free speech issue:
ALAMOGORDO, N.M. – 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!"
Fultz's ex-girlfriend has taken him to court for harassment and violation of privacy. A domestic court official has recommended the billboard be removed.
But Fultz's attorney argues the order violates his client's free speech rights.
"As distasteful and offensive as the sign may be to some, for over 200 years in this country the First Amendment protects distasteful and offensive speech," Todd Holmes said.
The woman's friends say she had a miscarriage, not an abortion, according to a report in the Albuquerque Journal.
Holmes disputes that, saying his case is based on the accuracy of his client's statement.
"My argument is: What Fultz said is the truth," Holmes said.
The woman's lawyer said she had not discussed the pregnancy with her client. But for Ellen Jessen, whether her client had a miscarriage or an abortion is not the point. The central issue is her client's privacy and the fact that the billboard has caused severe emotional distress, Jessen said.
"Her private life is not a matter of public interest," she told the Alamogordo Daily News.
I am unclear on what making unsupported and false statements about a person's medical care has to do with free speech, but one thing is crystal clear.
Pregnant women should be forced to make their medical records publicly available so that we all can judge their medical decisions and let the world know how we, you know, feel about those decisions.