William & Mary Law School
March 31, 2014
William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-275
Freedom of speech has a complex and dynamic relationship with a number of other constitutional rights. This Article discusses one aspect of that relationship. It identifies and analyzes laws and regulations affecting rights speech – communications about or concerning the recognition, scope, or exercise of constitutional rights. As illustrative examples, the Article focuses on regulation of speech about or concerning the right to abortion and the right to bear arms. In these areas, government frequently manages, structures, and limits how individuals discuss constitutional rights. For example, various laws compel physicians to convey information about abortion and its effects, restrict sidewalk counseling near abortion clinics, limit public and press access to gun records, and ban lobbying relating to gun control with government funds. The Article identifies rights speech as an important sub-class of political speech; discusses the various ways in which rights speech regulations affect constitutional rights discourse; examines the factors that have led governments to impose such regulations in the abortion and arms contexts; and identifies the First Amendment and other constitutional harms that flow from governmental regulation of rights speech. The Article closes with some thoughts regarding how we might ensure that the First Amendment continues to serve as an effective mediating mechanism in future debates about constitutional rights.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 58
Keywords: rights, speech, expression, abortion, arms, guns, Second Amendment, First Amendment, neutralityworking papers series
Date posted: April 2, 2014 ; Last revised: May 29, 2014
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