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Aborted-fetus photos: Should protestors be allowed to display them where kids might see?

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abortion protesters 205x205.jpg
A protest in 2008.
Should abortion protestors be allowed to wave signs featuring "gruesome images" in places where children might see them? That's the question two Colorado anti-abortion advocates and the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a national pro-life law firm, want the U.S. Supreme Court to answer.

"Children are getting pregnant or impregnating their girlfriends at very young ages and the idea that you keep this speech from them is something that is very, very debatable," says Tom Brejcha, society president.

The case started on March 20, 2005 -- Palm Sunday -- when Kenneth Scott, known for protesting outside Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and Clifton Powell led a demonstration outside St. John's Cathedral in Capitol Hill "against what they see as the evils of abortion," according to the petition to the Supreme Court (on view below).

They chose Palm Sunday because they figured they'd reach people who don't go to church on other Sundays, and they picked St. John's because Scott believed the church was too liberal; the petition notes that "ex-President Bill Clinton" had once visited.

While the church held services outdoors that day, Scott, Powell and others "carried signs displaying, among other things, pictures of aborted fetuses," the petition says. Though they didn't violate any laws, "parishioners were bothered" by the protest -- especially since about two hundred children were in attendance. "Some parents withdrew their children from church activities because of concern over the demonstration," it says.

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Kenneth Scott and his wife, Jo.
The church filed a lawsuit, alleging that the protestors were a nuisance and seeking an injunction to stop them from coming back. The Colorado District Court ruled in favor of the church and although the protestors appealed twice, an injunction still stands.

On Sundays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. -- and half an hour before any religious service starts and half an hour after it ends -- the protestors are barred from displaying posters "depicting gruesome images of mutilated fetuses or dead bodies" that may be seen by children under twelve. They're also not allowed to shout in a way that would disturb church services.

The appeals court justified the injunction by saying it was "narrowly tailored" in the interest of protecting children, the petition says. But the protestors and the Thomas More Society think the whole thing violates the protestors' First Amendment rights.

"I'm not thrilled about people picketing churches," Brejcha admits, "but it's a free-speech issue, and the question is, 'Is it okay for government to impose this decree banning it?'"

The protestors believe the fetus photos are necessary "to show exactly what the abortion produces," the petition says. To back up their argument, they cite examples from history.

"Photographs of Holocaust victims similarly helped show the evil of Nazism in ways words could not easily convey," the petition says. It also mentions the case of Emmett Till, who was lynched in 1955. "Photographs of Till's body in the coffin published in Jet Magazine became powerful images of the civil rights movement," it notes.

Lower courts have differed in how they've ruled in similar cases, Brejcha says -- which is why he'd like the country's highest court to weigh in. The Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear the case. "We think the law should be made crystal clear," Brejcha says.

Continue to read the petition.



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43 comments
DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Would it be OK for Vegetarians to display gruesome Slaughterhouse Photos outside McDonalds in view of children?


Chelly Serna
Chelly Serna

I don't see this as free speech, but an attempt to misinform the public. They can hand out pamphlets to those who are able read and fully understand its contents. By waving around pictures of abortions that are either illegal or non-American, you are only hurting those who don't yet understand the difference. Let children make up their own mind when they are developed enough to comprehend what an abortion is for.

Davis Bailey
Davis Bailey

Kids have the internet, trying to hide anything from them at this point is just silly (and it was to begin with, we're not here to paint some pastel colored picture of the world for children, they should know the real world they're growing up in to). This is a violation of free speech, plain and simple (I'm not anti-abortion, and I think protestors who are such are generally tasteless idiots with no empathy, but that doesn't change their right to be tasteless idiots). I mean, if it's such a big deal isn't it really up to the parents to keep their kids from seeing it?

Heather Fling
Heather Fling

No no heavens no..why would they should show unborn babies...I really love babies & kids..it would really hurt me terriably bad...I wish they don't put that sad stuff on here..kids maybe watching :'( that will not be good..

Celeste Archer
Celeste Archer

Josh, clearly you celebrate the first amendment! But, these signs aren't a matter of reading - the pictures given probably could fit within the "don't cry fire in a crowded theatre" - as an educator/parent/church goer where I have seen these signs on a regular basis, I agree with this. It's too far and perfect example of just because you can doesn't mean you should. Unfortunately, some folks have to have legislation to make them understand limits.

Josh Moore
Josh Moore

God bless freedom of speech you fuckfaces! Although those signs are fucked up and the people holding them are sloppy lipped cunt fuckers, they are protected by the the fucking amazing first amendment! All us fuckfaces have a choice to listen or not. To look or not. To fucking read or not.

JimTom
JimTom

I'm sure a large percent of these abortion proponents are against the death pentalty and for gun control. Typical liberal confusion. Don't get me wrong I don't care what a women does with here body unless it is my child she is carrying. But it would be nice someday to see some consistency from the left. 

Dan Brown
Dan Brown

Sadly, the First Amendment should apply, even when it protects disgusting evil people holding up offensive signs.

Michelle Geiger
Michelle Geiger

They have the right to show it....we have the right to cover our childrens's eyes. Quit allowing the government to babysit us!

LivCupcake Elgethun
LivCupcake Elgethun

I wish they had the common sense to not show these pics at all, but alas. . .

Mark Davis
Mark Davis

I understand what you are saying but, I don't understand why you should expect government to legislate people's behavior. When you start cracking down on free speech, I'm pretty sure that is more likely to incite violence then letting them put in their two cents. If you don't want your children to see the images, don't walk them by the protesters. Where does personal responsibility come into this equation? Once again, no matter how much I disagree with their cause, I will always champion the right of anyone to say whatever they want, wherever they want. You know what scares me more than abortion protesters? Government limiting the rights of individuals to protest for a cause they care for. You know what scares me more than that? People who thinks it's a good idea. Once again, it is not up to government to tell us what we can or cannot say, film or not film, or show pictures of what we want. Whenever you start handing over basic liberties to government, whatever the cause, you are going to get nothing good in return.

Matt Baca
Matt Baca

This isn't about protecting free speech. This is about limiting a groups ability to incite the public against a portion of society. It's precisely why Germany has enacted the Volksverhetzung law. Anti-abortionists have perpetrated acts of terror in the US, and men like Dr. David Gunn may very well still be alive if we were able to parse free speech from hate speech in the United States.

Rich Madison
Rich Madison

I disagree with their message, but being "offended" is not an excuse to deny someone their First Amendment rights. The argument that "kids might see it" is absurd and a play on emotion.

Mark Davis
Mark Davis

No matter how grotesque, disgusting, or controversial the material, free speech should never be limited under any law. As much as I disagree with the protesters, we don't have a First Amendment to talk about the weather. We have a First Amendment to talk about or show on a picket sign very controversial things. Limiting free speech of any kind is not compatible with a free society.

Michael Bornstein
Michael Bornstein

The law should be something like anti-abortion protesters CAN only protest using aborted fetus photos

Matt Baca
Matt Baca

If you were protesting pornographers you wouldn't be able to walk around with sandwich boards covered with images of hardcore pornography, especially near schools, so why should you be allowed to show images of hardcore torture porn? Additionally, most of these images are depictions of late term, and partial birth abortions which by and large aren't legal anyway. It's just for sick shock factor. This is just another control issue that the religious right in our country couches in supposed dogmatic bullshit, but in reality, it's about trying to maintain control over what you do with your body. Meanwhile their religious leaders continue sodomizing children, or being deeply involved in some other aberrant sex scandal, which have become all to common in megachurches and Catholic churches alike. A culture of repression breeds a lot of things, closeness to God is not one of them.

Heather Byars
Heather Byars

And Jim, from the looks of things you don't have to worry about this one way or another.

Allison Kenney
Allison Kenney

Of course not. It's a good law and they are sick in the head to show those photos ANYWHERE where kids or people in general can see them. It's not like society allows intercourse to be posted on billboards. These protesters are nuts anyway...I hope they do it & get ticketed to high heaven.

Heather Byars
Heather Byars

Save the children from this sight. Or just let them find out the hard way when they have to make the choice to kill their own, because they didn't realize what it really feels like.

Heather Byars
Heather Byars

I'm sure somewhere in the world they probably are, Jim.

Josh Moore
Josh Moore

Sure and I should be allowed to stand at a school or church and yell dirty sloppy cunt fucker all day long. Idiots.

Jim Orsund
Jim Orsund

A baby is in you stomach? Are people killing babies by eating them?!

Heather Byars
Heather Byars

Abortion is murder. No matter how you look at it, necessary or not. A baby is in you stomach covered by skin. If you do nothing it grows into a human being, if you suck it out, it dies. Kids should know the truth.

Jenny Castaneda
Jenny Castaneda

They should not be showing that... It is up to a mother to decide that medical decison. There are thousands of reasons to get one... They drive around on advertisment trailers so whats the difference??

Heather Byars
Heather Byars

Hey, do you think it's right that we are not aloud to see our dead soldiers on TV? Children should know what happens after sex and the consequences. Tough love, but no one wants to kill a baby.

Suni Daze
Suni Daze

NO !! Its OFFENSIVE !! Find something more productive to spend your energy on other than PEOPLES CHOICES !!!!

Cassie Applegate
Cassie Applegate

I live right next to a PP and would LOVE for them to not be able to show the images there (and especially the dead baby dolls with blood all over them!) HOwever, I do believe in the right of free speech and believe that they should be able to protest their crazy opinions. We just have to educate our children and protect them from the images.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

So who would say you have a right to do such a thing, but you don't have the right to show such a thing? That makes no sense...especially since one is protected speech, and the other is not (before anyone jumps to conclusions, I'm not for outlawing abortion.)

All other taking of human life, such as war and execution should be handled the same way, if tolerated.

CoreyDonahue
CoreyDonahue

Yes it's their right to display them.  What kind of retard would hide behind children to fight something that they are against? What about displayiong the dead of the nourmous American sponsered wars?  Can't do it because kids might see them?  The state never had a right to tell women what to do with their bodies.

CoreyDonahue
CoreyDonahue

Yes it's their right to display them.  What kind of retard would hide behind children to fight something that they are against? 

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay Sure! As long as they're not on McDonalds' property or blocking their public easement (the assumption being McDonalds would tell them to leave.)

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@JimTom Interesting post, JimTom. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@JimTom  ... says the anti-abortion, pro-death penalty, pro-gun, pro-war, misogynist Repuglycan.

HipTip: unless you're carrying that fetus in YOUR womb, it ain't "your" decision to make.

hth.


ahecker05
ahecker05

My 7 year old should have to know the consequences of sex because you psycho fanatics think it is needed to post a picture of a late term abortion on a sign? YOU have the right to decide what my 7 year old should know?  By putting these signs up you are showing my child something that at SEVEN he doesn't need to know.  Are you god?  Do you get to determine what my child should be exposed to?  Let me come expose your child to what those "horrible gays" are doing??  After all he should be educated right?  CHILDREN do not need to know the consequences of sex....my 7 year old does not need to know that.  Nor do you have the right to force it down our throat.  

JimTom
JimTom

But the women sure have the right to tell a man what he is going to do for the next 18 years, or tell him he WAS going to be a dad but SHE decided against it.

JimTom
JimTom

Do they have anti-abortion protests in Mexico?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Cognitive_Dissident ... exactly. As offensive as it is, there is no special restraint on free speech -- especially political protests -- "for the children"

... so at what point does "gruesome" become "obscene"?

Would running VIDEOS in public of a bloody abortion -- or animal slaughter -- on a large screen TV be any less protected?


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@JimTom ... perhaps you should learn to make better mating choices.

Natural Selection in Action.


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