Protect Your First Amendment Rights, Don’t Limit Them

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

The terrorist assassination of Dr. Tiller there have been calls on the Left for to abhorring the words of people like Bill O’Reilly and Fox News as well as those involved with Operation Rescue and other anti-reproductive freedom groups.  It is understandable when such a horrible act is committed to want to react in such a way as to prevent it from ever happening again. This has lead to calls for restricting the ability of those whose words may have encouraged and incited the anti-reproductive freedom terrorist, Mr. Roeder, to do so in the future. This is an understandable desire but one that should be strongly resisted.

Originally posted at

The history of the First Amendment’s protections from Government interference in citizen’s speech is a really tortured one. Just in the last 100 years we have seen laws upheld and people jailed for what looks to us like perfectly reasonable (and protected) speech. There were laws, which were held to be Constitutional by the Supreme Court, which prevented people from merely encouraging munitions workers, in print, to strike in protest against WWI (Abrams V US) . There were laws that punished people with jail time for merely being members of a State Party whose National Party advocated the workers overthrow, but put forth no specific plans for doing so, of the US Government, even though the person convicted did not support that plank of the platform and had argued against it. (Whitney V California)

It has taken a long time to get to the place we are at today, where if you are not advocating the immediate illegal action for political reasons you are safe to do so. You may feel differently but the Dog believes it is better to be where we are today than where we were in the 1920’s – 1940’s. It is important that we don’t let fear drive us to give up rights we have had to fight for over a long period of time. This, sadly, is what the criminal Bush administration did so well. They found something their supporters and many in America feared and because of the horrible events of 9/11 they managed remove 4th Amendment rights and protections that should never have been messed with.

Right now, the well meaning calls from the Left to change the laws to prevent the odious Mr. O’Reilly from saying things like “baby killer” on the air about abortion Doctors like Dr. Till is doing the very same thing. We want to protect people, specifically doctors providing legal services to patients who have asked for these services from the violent fringe of the anti-reproductive freedom groups. This is very real and right now immediate fear, but if we did so, the cure would be worse than the problem.

What we would be doing is directly interfering with the First Amendment protections of those who oppose women having control of their own bodies and reproduction. As controlling and spurious as their arguments are, they do have protections from the Government preventing them from speaking their minds. This is important as it is a cornerstone of any democracy that all citizens can speak their mind, no matter how intolerant, how misguided, how ignorant those words are to their fellow citizens and their government. If we limit these groups right to speak, where does it end?

Will those who are convinced of the government’s involvement in 9/11 be muzzled next? The Dog does not buy this conspiracy theory, but he does not think we as a people and our government should in any way prevent them from talking about what they think happened. The remedy for objectionable speech is not to restrict it, it is always more speech. If we are unhappy about those who say such hateful things about abortion providers then it is our duty to stand up and speak out against them. It is far better for a democracy to have a loud, angry and final debate about issues than it is to let one side have the platform out of some desire not to be controversial or because the topic is uncomfortable. We all know we can disagree without being disagreeable, but it does take more effort.

As for the problem with the actions of the anti-reproductive rights groups the issue, as it is has been often in America in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries is not more laws, but actual uniform enforcement of the laws. Mr. Roeder was reported for vandalizing an abortion clinic in the week prior to his attack on Dr. Till. He should have been investigated by Federal and local authorities when his cars license plate was reported. After all this was a convicted felon who had attacked abortion providers before, no action by him in regards to doctors or clinics can be seen as innocuous.

For too long the division in this country on the issue of abortion has allowed law enforcement to take a hands off stand if the community or the officers did not agree with the legality of abortion. This is flatly unacceptable. Rule of law is about rule of law all the time, not selective enforcement. If we want to prevent and reduce the number of attacks by anti-reproductive rights terrorists, we can no longer turn a blind eye to law enforcement in regards abortion law. As long as we allow soft enforcement of protection orders and failure to investigate incidents then we are leaving our law abiding citizens who provide abortions on their own.

If it is a time for action on this issue, and the Dog thinks it is way past time, then we should take the right action. Let us take the action the reinforces our ideals of free speech and rule of law, not actions which will limit our First Amendment protections and will not prevent the further killing and harassing of legal abortion providers. To do so would be playing into the hands of the intolerant authoritarians who are the fellow travelers of the anti-reproductive rights crowd.

Protecting the Constitution means protecting it for all of the people, especially the disagreeable assholes who would push past all reasonable speech. The Constitution is not a buffet where we can pick and choose the rights we like and ignore the ones we don’t. Like wise it’s protections are not an exclusive club where we can vote on who gets to join those protections. This is the argument we make for full civil rights for gay citizens, if that argument is to mean anything, then we must stand up for the right of fools to be fools.

The floor is yours.  


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  1. completely in favor of taking the Operation Oppress-you crowds away. But since I use my rights too often, I can’t support them losing theirs.  

    • Edger on June 3, 2009 at 19:14

    people namecalling Tiller a babykiller as long as they don’t have any problem with me calling George Bush what he is: a babykiller.

    But calling people asking questions about 9/11 a “conspiracy theory” is just as bad as the conspiracy theories the government and the media has force fed into people about 9/11.

  2. a certain fraction of the conservative right abhor the “rule of law.”  Like Jack Bauer, the ends justify the means, and sometimes rules must be bent and/or broken in order to serve justice.  Nearly every thriller novel sold in the US involves a hero with a flexible view of the law and “true morality” on his side.  The imbecile who murdered Dr. Tiller sees himself, I am sure, as just such a hero.  I am equally sure they see the need to fight against what they view as unjust laws.

    I think we really have to come to grips with the fact that a lot of anti-choice folks really believe that abortion is murder.  Their moral revulsion equals what we feel about Iraq, about torture.  Unless we understand the ramifications of that belief system, we are unlikely to make headway in dealing with anti-choice “forces.”  I guess if it was easy, it’d have been solved already.

    Thanks for the essay, dude.

    • pico on June 3, 2009 at 21:42

    I do take issue with one part of your essay:

    This has lead to calls for restricting the ability of those whose words may have encouraged and incited the anti-reproductive freedom terrorist, Mr. Roeder, to do so in the future.

    Nothing particular to you, but I’ve been trying to avoid this kind of argument-framing lately.  If you’re writing a diary to argue against a set of beliefs, you should probably post a few links to examples so we can see for ourselves what those “calls for restricting the ability, etc.” look like on the page.  Otherwise it’s hard to disagree with you, because there’s no there there, so to speak.  Does that make sense?

    (In a way, this is the FOX news “some people say” argument, but I didn’t want to put it that way because I know you don’t have any pernicious intent.  But it’s always a good habit to link examples instead of what’s potentially straw.  If I can see an example, I can see where you’re coming from in response.)

    • dkmich on June 4, 2009 at 00:10

    I broke Docudharma, honest to god.  I wrote a diary. I’m afraid to go back and look at the title, but it is about Obama and paying for health care.    It doesn’t show up anywhere unless you go in under my name; and when you do, the whole thing goes nuts.   Who should I tell?  Somebody has to go in and get rid of the bad code.    

  3. of free speech, and speech intended to incite imminent crime is one of them. I wonder if an argument could be made that O’Reilly’s words were meant to incite violence against Dr. Tiller.

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