Rights Speech

72 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2014 Last revised: 24 Jul 2015

Date Written: November 17, 2014


Freedom of expression has a complex and dynamic relationship with a number of other constitutional rights, including abortion, the right to bear arms, equal protection, the franchise, and religious liberty. This Article discusses one aspect of that relationship. It critically analyzes the regulation of “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 abortion and the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Governments frequently manage, structure, and limit how individuals discuss constitutional rights. For example, laws and regulations compel physicians to convey information to their patients about abortion and its effects, restrict abortion speech near clinics, limit public and press access to gun records, and ban state-funded lobbying relating to gun control. The Article classifies rights speech as an important subcategory of political speech; demonstrates how rights speech regulations, which are rooted in political conflicts about underlying rights, affect constitutional rights discourse; identifies the effects of rights speech regulation on expressive and non-expressive constitutional rights; and discusses how the First Amendment might more effectively mediate disputes regarding constitutional rights.

Keywords: First Amendment, free speech, Second Amendment, right to bear arms, abortion, rights speech

Suggested Citation

Zick, Timothy, Rights Speech (November 17, 2014). 48 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1 (2014), William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-275, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2418285 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2418285

Timothy Zick (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States
757-221-2076 (Phone)

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