Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down
Frederick Douglass, 1860
If there is a cardinal rule regarding our 1st Amendment freedoms it is that government may not choose winners and losers. It may not constitutionally favor some speech or expressive activity over others. It may not favor one viewpoint over another; it may not prefer one political or social issue or position over another. To do so is unconstitutional viewpoint-discrimination. We have just seen a striking example of that.
Recently, two pro-life student activists, affiliated with Students for Life of America, were arrested for writing the phrase “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” in chalk on a public sidewalk in Washington, D.C. They have been charged with defacing public property, with a punishment of a fine up to $1,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail. (I noticed that no Hollywood celebrities or Biden staffers stepped up to pay the bail or fines of these students). They were using chalk. The same chalk children use every day to draw pictures and play hopscotch. Chalk.
They weren’t defacing landmarks with spray paint; they weren’t destroying or setting fire to property, throwing bricks or looting stores. There were no profanity-laced screams at police or attempts to blind them. They were using chalk that can be washed away in a light rain to make the point that the lives of unborn black babies should matter, too. They are the very definition of peaceful protestors.
This action by the City of D.C. constitutes viewpoint discrimination for the simple reason that D.C. government allowed to remain for months the political message “Defund The Police” painted conspicuously on 16th Street and located adjacent to the government-commissioned Black Lives Matter mural. Suppressing pro-life speech while allowing other political messages to appear is transparently inconsistent and favors certain speech in a way that violates these students’ constitutional rights.
Again, D.C. has not acted in a viewpoint neutral way because it allows some protected speech but prohibits other protected speech. The Constitution forbids government from picking, choosing, favoring, or placing its imprimatur and stamp of approval in this way. D.C. must either allow all speech or allow none, but it may not favor one form of constitutionally protected speech over another.
Protecting free speech advocacy on behalf of the unborn is critical because over three (3) thousand human beings—including roughly 1000 Black Americans—who cannot speak for themselves are brutally killed each day by suction, saline or dismemberment abortions, and all without the anesthetic that is legally required in the execution of convicted murderers.
Let’s compare. According to CDC, there have been approximately 172, 416 U.S. deaths from Covid. Also, according to CDC in 2018, heart disease killed 635,260 and cancer killed 598,038 Americans. Based on available state-level data, approximately 876,000 abortions—the clearly visible, and moving, children of the sonogram—took place in the U.S. in 2018, making abortion the leading cause of death in America. Over 60 million babies, in a nation of 330 million, have been killed through abortions since 1973. Abortion, the American holocaust, is the civil rights issue of our time.
All Americans should be protected from anti-speech tyranny when they speak out against the hate crime that is abortion. If these innocent human lives don’t matter, if the weakest among us can’t find a “safe space” even in their mother’s womb, then ultimately no human lives matter and no one is truly safe from violence and death. Such speech must never be silenced.
Royal Alexander is a Shreveport attorney.