Free Speech or Invasion of Privacy?

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Vigis
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Free Speech or Invasion of Privacy?

Postby Vigis » Wed Jun 08, 2011 1:01 am

Full Article Here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110606/ap_ ... _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!"

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.


I'm no Constitutional scholar, but based on the contents of the article I think this guy will probably win on the freedom of speech angle. The mother's name is not mentioned in the billboard or the article, nor is there a picture of her on the billboard. My thought is that because there is no identifying information, only speculation ties his ex-girlfriend to being the "mother." In that case, there would be no invasion of privacy, nor would it be harassment. I could see this guy winning the case on the basis of freedom of speech, but being open to a civil lawsuit afterward.

I do think it is a pretty scumbag move if his intent was, in fact, to be malicious toward his ex-partner (which I think probably was his intent) rather than to promote awareness of abortion or his stance on abortion. It is typical of advertisements on controversial issues to go for a high impact message, regardless of which side of the issue one supports. A billboard showing a pregnant woman with a large shadow looming behind her with the words "A man killed my husband and children and raped me, now the state of South Dakota says that I have to keep and raise this thing." would be just as distasteful and just as high impact. It would also be protected by the freedom of speech and, if the woman had indeed been raped at some point, similar in circumstance to the case in the article above.

Which is it, free speech or invasion of privacy?

*edited to correct grammar in the first paragraph
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Teflor Lyorian
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Re: Free Speech or Invasion of Privacy?

Postby Teflor Lyorian » Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:49 am

I'd say let a jury decide if the billboard is harassment. Then let a series of courts interpret that judgement (should parties appeal judgement) by comparing it to similar cases.

I don't believe privacy has anything to do with it. If you tell someone something private but don't hold them to keep it private, it's not private anymore.
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kiryan
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Re: Free Speech or Invasion of Privacy?

Postby kiryan » Wed Jun 08, 2011 7:13 pm

... its hard to know for sure, but I wouldn't be so sure its not illegal.

Patient health information is private. If you tell someone, that doesn't mean they have a right to spread it. I believe thats in the HIPAA act, specifically a husband can't go around telling people about his wife's medical conditions. HIV status is also legally extremely sensitive information, if this particular item is legal, saying she had HIV could definitely get you in trouble.

as far as harrassment... I think harassment comes down to intent + actual effect. I think you could find both if its well known or becomes well known who she is. Plus these tend to be civil cases, so maybe not "illegal" per se, but you could probably be sued and probably lose. You could probably also win.

as far as is it a right. I'd think it is free speech. if its not, maybe chalk it up as civil disobedience protesting a woman's right to end a life you helped create.

finally, a lawyer for the billboard company probably decided it was protected free speech... so its probably legal.
Teflor Lyorian
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Re: Free Speech or Invasion of Privacy?

Postby Teflor Lyorian » Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:18 am

I do believe you are protected in a marriage situation, but he was not married.
"You see, the devil haunts a hungry man.
If you don’t wanna join him, you got to beat him."
- Kris Kristofferson (To Beat the Devil)
kiryan
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Re: Free Speech or Invasion of Privacy?

Postby kiryan » Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:33 am

As far as I've heard (when I worked in healthcare) and read, you do not have the right to divulge patient health information about your spouse to 3rd parties without their permission. Your patient health information is private to you. Wasn't that the point of hipaa?
Teflor Lyorian
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Re: Free Speech or Invasion of Privacy?

Postby Teflor Lyorian » Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:34 am

You do have the right to revoke your privacy by telling someone you're not married to (or a legal guardian/your hired lawyer/or other protected relationship)..
"You see, the devil haunts a hungry man.
If you don’t wanna join him, you got to beat him."
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kiryan
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Re: Free Speech or Invasion of Privacy?

Postby kiryan » Thu Jun 09, 2011 4:18 pm

The privacy/access rights granted through marriage do not cover PHI (patient health information) at least as of HIPAA as far as I understand.

You can not access your spouse's PHI without their explicit permission. I believe, but it may be anecdotal, that you can be sued for as a spouse, disclosing PHI information about your spouse to a 3rd party without their permission.
kiryan
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Re: Free Speech or Invasion of Privacy?

Postby kiryan » Thu Jun 09, 2011 7:30 pm

http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-a ... 002e0.html

man sentenced to 6 months of probation for making videos of his wife sleeping without her consent. Sounds like she pressed charges.

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