The Corner

On Abortion, the ‘Gruesome’ Is Only To Be Done, Not Spoken Of

My friends at the American Freedom Law Center (I’m on the advisory board) have filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court urging the justices to reverse a Colorado state court ruling that bans public display of “gruesome” abortion images on the remarkable ground that pictures of children who have been aborted might . . . offend children. 

Imagine if we had told the anti-war Left that photos of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison could not be publicly displayed. You know, “We’ll just describe the whole thing as ‘enhanced detention’ — or, maybe, ‘choice’ — no need to get more graphic than that.” How long do you suppose that would have been tolerated?

In this instance, pro-abortion activists filed a lawsuit against anti-abortion protesters, claiming that the display of graphic images of first-term abortions amounted to an actionable nuisance. The Colorado courts agreed. As the AFLC amicus brief explains, this flies in the face of First Amendment precedent holding that the Constitution does not permit the suppression of legitimate political expression “solely to protect the young from ideas or images that [the government] thinks unsuitable for them.” Given that we are not living in a sharia state, moreover, political argument may not be prohibited merely because it expresses ideas that members of society may find “offensive or disagreeable” — as the Supreme Court reaffirmed in the 2011 case of Snyder v. Phelps.

Here’s hoping the justices have the good sense to take the Colorado case. And here’s hoping that we learn an important lesson on the right: As we’ve seen in countless contexts (abortion becomes “choice,” marriage becomes “[hyphenated-]marriage,” tax becomes “revenue,” spending becomes “investment,” etc.), the Left is simply better at the language game than we are. That is the nature of the beast. Progressives are trying to transform, we are trying to conserve; they are forever thinking of strategies to move the culture away from its traditions, we are standing athwart, yelling, “Stop!” The system works only because of liberty. Free speech gives us the ability to react vigorously with effective arguments that expose the weakness and, at times, misdirection of the other side’s claims.

If, at the front end, you’re going to concede the Left’s clever use of language to establish the terms of the debate, and then, on the back end, you’re now going to concede the Left the capacity to limit or even suppress your response, you are guaranteed to lose — which means, lose everything.

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