Civil Rights -- Privacy Vs. Research Paper


They would subsequently call them at home, leave literature and fetus dolls at their door, and even call families and distant relatives of the patients to inform them of the patients' plans to ask them to intercede. The Pro-Life advocates argued that they were lawfully exercising their right of free speech on public property (such as across the street fro doctors' offices) to verbally attack patients by name as they exercise their equally important right to personal physical autonomy under the recognized privacy penumbras. The Value of the Legal Approach Suggested by the Article

The Yale Law Journal article (Clapman, 2003) explained various ways that the general right of free speech is limited by more important privacy rights. For example, truth is ordinarily an affirmative defense to defamation. However, existing law already recognizes that certain statements, despite being truthful, serve no valid purpose besides injuring another person, such as by purposely publicizing tremendously embarrassing (but true) information about another. The author outlines several different legal justifications for other types of exceptions to general free speech principles. She then suggests that:

"So far, however, advocates have largely overlooked common-law privacy rights as a possible source of protection. This may be a serious mistake. Two common-law torts, in particular, are well suited to the specific harm of abortion outing: the intrusion tort, which covers wrongful intrusions into a person's physical seclusion or personal affairs, and the publication tort, which covers wrongful publication of private facts."

Since the first legal challenges generated by the clash of privacy and free speech rights outside of medical clinics, several states and local governments have implemented legislation that prohibited demonstrations within specific distances of private...


However, the principal opposition to abortion is not predicated on humanistic or constitutional principles but strictly on religious grounds: namely, the belief that human life begins at conception (Dershowitz, 2002). Medical patients have a private right to obtain lawful medical services without suffering intentional infliction of emotional distress and trauma. Pro-Life advocates have a free speech right to express their opposition to abortion, including objections based in religious beliefs and definitions. In simple terms, the right to personal privacy and freedom from unwanted verbal confrontations about highly private personal matters outweighs any free-speech right to verbally abuse or publicly embarrass medical patients who do not share the protestors' opinions and beliefs.
Ultimately, in certain contexts, the right of free speech ends where it conflicts with the simultaneous rights of others to privacy in their personal affairs and their right to be free from malicious harassment that happens to be implemented through the medium of "speech."

Sources Used in Documents:


Clapman, A. "Privacy rights and abortion outing: a proposal for using common-law torts to protect abortion patients and staff." The Yale Law Journal. Yale University,

School of Law. 2003. Retrieved May 25, 2010 from HighBeam Research:

Dershowitz, A. (2002). Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age. New York:

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