New Mexico Billboard Triggers Fight Between Privacy and Free Speech

There is an interesting free speech case out of Otero County, New Mexico. Hearing commissioner Darrell Brantley of the Otero County Domestic Violence Court has recommended an order of protection for Nani Lawrence against Greg A. Fultz after Fultz paid for a pro-life billboard criticizing the abortion of their alleged child. Brantley also wants the billboard taken down as a violation of Lawrence’s right of privacy.

It now goes to Twelfth Judicial District Judge James W. Counts, who is expected who is expected to sign the order of protection and an order the removal of the billboard.

The billboard shows Fultz, 35, holding what appears to the outline of a baby in his arms with the statement, “This Would Have Been A Picture Of My 2-month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To Not KILL Our Child!” Notably, the billboard does not name Nani Lawrence. However, in a rather transparent reference, Fultz displays the endorsement of an organization he created called National Association of Needed Information. That’s right N.A.N.I.

Fultz later removed the endorsement of N.A.N.I. from the billboard.
Lawrence’s attorney Ellen Jessen said the order of protection was recommended under the Family Violence Protection Act.

The issue was closer when N.A.N.I. appeared on the sign, but it becomes a serious question of free speech if it is a statement from a father opposed to the abortion of the child. This is personal information for both the father and mother. Presumably, either part has a right to discuss his or her own experience with abortion. If true, it is not defamation. The right to privacy includes the tort of intrusion against seclusion and the public disclosure of embarrassing private facts.

The intrusion tort doesn’t fit because this is the disclosure of a fact disclosed to the father. The public disclosure tort runs into the same problem as a disclosed fact without any agreement to keep the information confidential. More importantly, this is a claimed injury or harm to the father coupled with a strong philosophical or religious view that he wishes to discuss publicly. Just as the original Jane Doe has discussed her abortion (and later opposition to abortion), a father should have the same right to publicly discuss his own experience. His use of the name was unnecessary and problematic. However, I am not sure that he could not reveal the name as long as he is speaking truthfully under the common law. The question is the obligation of a former boyfriend to keep the fact of the abortion secret.

There is also the question of balancing the remedy against the right now that the woman’s name is public. Does this mean that Fultz cannot discuss his views and alleged harm in public for the rest of time?

What do you think?

Source: Alamogordo News as first seen on Reddit.

Jonathan Turley

75 thoughts on “New Mexico Billboard Triggers Fight Between Privacy and Free Speech”

  1. Shire Nomad

    I’m sorry that you feel your “view” is the norm, and there are three choices on how to handle a pregnancy 1. Parent, yes this is hard work and some development will have to occur. 2. Adoption seems like a Win Win. 3. Terminate pregnancy, side effects both psychologically and physical, males do feel a sense of failure to protect their child, after a women has an abortion. (Yes I have studied the psychology of abortion can’t arguee with scientific research). Can you please tell me what is the number one and only cause of pregnancy and STDs? seems foolish to engage in risky behavior knowing the risk involved.

  2. “The problem is that our culture seems to think there is an absolute right to sex (and sex without consequences).”

    Shire Nomad,

    I do believe that your statement is correct as far as it goes, however, taken that starkly it ignores the nuances. If this society was free of stupid (to me) sexual prudery, patriarchy, provided its youth with realistic information on sexuality and the wherewithal to responsibly engage in sexuality in a protected manner, then people should abide by the consequences of stupid behavior. That would be ideal, but ideal doesn’t exist. What exists is a situation where the schools preach the ridiculous notion of abstinence from what is normal youthful behavior. Parents, too locked in by their own prudery and or silly religious beliefs, to educate their children (or even talk to them) about sex. Youths learn about sex from their peers and their peers don’t have the knowledge either.

    That is only one part of the nuance. The second is that only some religions believe that abortion is the taking of a life and that conception begins at pregnancy. I feel the followers of those religions can behave as they please with respect to abortion, but they don’t have the right, either legal or moral, to enforce their beliefs on others. The worst sins delineated in the Torah (what Christians call the “Old Testament”) we called abominations. One such is puported to be homosexuality another is eating pork. Do I as a Jew, or Muslim for that matter, have the right to stop you from eating bacon, since it is clearly against my God’s Law and a major sin? How in hell then do some Christians feel they can legislate their particular beliefs?

    I have in my career had to deal with many of the results of unwanted children and the effect that their unwanted births had on their lives, their mothers and on society. While no doubt you can provide instances of success and genius resulting from unwanted births, these represent a much smaller percentage of consequence. In all instances though these births were the result of choice by the mother. In many cases though either through locality, religion, outside pressures, etc. the women weren’t allowed to choose and were thus forced to carry the unwanted child to term. This to me is an abomination if the woman was not allowed to choose what to do with her own body.

    I of course believe that the concept that life begins with conception is incorrect. However, I would never want government to insist on aborting a child, that the mother wants. Nor would I want the father to be allowed to choose the mother’s course of action. He simply doesn’t have that right. As I said above that while having had many sexual encounters prior to marriage, I never once impregnated a woman that I had sex with. I was brought up that pregnancy was MY responsibility to avoid, or to share. Most men sadly because of lack of information, sexist beliefs, or whose sex drives cause them to act without caution, don’t proceed responsibly. How dare they then arrogate to themselves the right to decide if a woman/girl has their child?

    Finally, when those who are anti-abortion support the notion that these unwanted children and their mothers shall lack for nothing in their lives, then they may have at least a viable moral stance. As you well know though, these posturing moralists love fetuses, but don’t give a damn about the babies they become, nor the mothers forced to carry them to term.

  3. @Mike: there is a difference between “punishment” and “natural consequences.”

    The problem is that our culture seems to think there is an absolute right to sex (and sex without consequences). This is as ridiculous as an absolute right to ice cream. If you are not willing to risk losing the million dollars, why are you playing the game? If you do not have a million dollars to lose, you DEFINITELY shouldn’t be playing. It is very good ice cream but you do not need it to live, no matter how much the culture tells you that you are a lesser person for not eating it as often as possible.

    Again, did someone not explain to you that you risked a million dollars by playing? Did someone force you to play at gunpoint? Then I do not object if you leave the charity without its earnings. But otherwise, you knew the rules, you played anyway.

    And I’m definitely going to object to you burning the charity to the ground to avoid paying.

  4. mike appleton
    depends why were they black was it due to an action that they chose to engaged in? and who died?

  5. kbmann:

    When light-skinned black people would pass for white years ago, was it because they feared people knowing they were black, or because they knew it is fundamentally wrong to be black?

  6. I need to amend my last one- at first glance I thought it was an overweight woman holding up the silhouette of an unborn infant. The guy is still in contempt of court, and I really think libel should be pursued.

  7. Actually, in case anyone has bothered reading followups- it was a miscarriage, not an abortion, nor was it a “deliberately induced miscarriage” aka abortion. I don’t think lying and bullying should be protected first amendment speech. I honestly don’t think it would be hard to prove malicious intent and reckless disregard for the truth. He paid for a massive billboard with a photo of his ex after they broke up. Additionally, she could consider pursuing copyright infringement as her ex used her image without her permission. If the Girls Gone Wild fellow can be compelled to censor the faces of the underage from his videos, I think this man can be cowed into at least censoring the face next time he decides to attempt to publicly shame another woman.

    By claiming the woman had an abortion, which did not occur, the man could stand to be sued for defamation and perhaps contempt as he has already defied court orders to have his billboard taken down.

  8. Any women that has an abortion believes it is O.K to have an abortion, then why is she embarrased that people know about the abortion, is it b/c she knows it is fundamentally wrong to destroy life?

  9. american taliban
    where’s team seal six for our homegrown radicals

  10. I would like the ability to choose what kind of medical procedures registered republicans can get.

    Let’s see: God created virus’s and bacteria so killing them is ‘murder.’ Hence no anti-choice republican should be able to get antibiotics.

    Let’s see: A man’s ‘seed’ is ‘alive’ so any anti-choice republican man who ‘self-loves’ should be, automatically, imprisoned for ‘mass murder of children.’

    I am creative so I can think of all sorts of medical procedures that should be denied to anti-choice republicans. Why should I be able to do this? Well for the same reason anti-choice republicans believe they have the right to deny others’ choices- because I think my opinions are right.

  11. “Do we then allow you to refuse to pay the natural consequences of your risk?”


    Your point seems to be that the woman’s becoming pregnant is somehow something she should be punished for by having to have a child she doesn’t want. There are many reasons that people become pregnant that include failure of condoms, a small percentage of pregnancies even on the pill, mistaken IUD use and other failures of various protections. Then too, since birth control theory and methodology is no longer taught in most schools, many people are ignorant of its methodology and usuage.

    I would not be so quick to condemn those who unwillingly, or unknowingly become pregnant. Beyond that though, the thought that the State should intervene in citizen’s sexuality is repugnant to me. Finally, even being a male I must say that if I imprenate a woman, I should have no say in whether she should have the child. I do not have to go through nine months of difficult bodily condition, the difficulty of childbirth and/or the problem of raising/supporting a child whose welfare I might not be invested in. Likewise, it is not my right to tell the woman not to have the child either.

    Having had a rather active sex life I can safely say that no child born from me was unplanned. I recognized my responsibility in the matter. In this instance though many men neither recognize, nor accept responsibility.

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