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Why Rick Perry’s Anti-Abortion Law Demonstrates His Contempt For The First Amendment

By Ian Millhiser  

"Why Rick Perry’s Anti-Abortion Law Demonstrates His Contempt For The First Amendment"

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The Supreme Court held nearly 70 years ago that laws forcing people to say things against their will violate the First Amendment. This is the reason why George H.W. Bush-appointed Judge Sam Sparks temporarily suspended a new Texas law that requires doctors to tell their patients medically-irrelevant information, such as stating that the fetus has a heartbeat and discussing “the presence of external members and internal organs.”

Moreover, the Texas law doesn’t simply force doctors to speak against their will, it also places a crushing burden of disclosure on rape victims. As Judge Sparks explains:

Section 171.012(a)(5) requires a pregnant woman to complete and sign a specified election form that certifies her understanding of many of the Act’s various requirements. The most troubling aspect of the required certification is paragraph (6), which reads:

6) I UNDERSTAND THAT I AM REQUIRED BY LAW TO HEAR AN EXPLANATION OF THE SONOGRAM IMAGES UNLESS I CERTIFY INWRITING TO ONE OF THE FOLLOWING:

_____ I AM PREGNANT AS A RESULT OF A SEXUAL ASSAULT, INCEST, OR OTHER VIOLATION OF THE TEXAS PENAL CODE THAT HAS BEEN REPORTED TO LAW ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITIES OR THAT HAS NOT BEEN REPORTED BECAUSE I REASONABLY BELIEVE THAT DOING SO WOULD PUT ME AT RISK OF RETALIATION RESULTING IN SERIOUS BODILY INJURY. . . .

The Court need not belabor the obvious by explaining why, for instance, women who are pregnant as a result of sexual assault or incest may not wish to certify that fact in writing, particularly if they are too afraid of retaliation to even report the matter to police. There is no sufficiently powerful government interest to justify compelling speech of this sort, nor is the Act sufficiently tailored to advance such an interest.

Unsurprisingly, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) wasted no time in attacking the Court’s decision, but Perry provided no explanation for why he thinks the Constitution allows doctors to be conscripted into anti-abortion advocacy. If Texas can force doctors to effectively try to talk women out of getting an abortion, then there is nothing preventing the federal government from requiring all patients seeking treatment to first listen to a 10 minute lecture on the virtues of Obamacare — or, for that matter, preventing a Democratic Congress from forcing Perry himself to issue a public statement touting his undying love of massive tax hikes on the rich.

In other words, Sparks’ decision isn’t just correct, it is obviously correct. Rick Perry has no right to force people to become mouthpieces for his own agenda.

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