Supreme Court Abortion Cases 2013: Supreme Court Refuses to Block Ban On Graphic Images Of Aborted Fetuses


The First Amendment allows U.S. citizens the freedom to express themselves in public spaces. What happens when a form of expression poses a visual harm to witnesses? The issue of abortion has been a persistent political debate in America, often leading to altercations with religious groups. According to the New York Times, the Colorado Court of Appeals barred abortion protesters from displaying images of aborted fetuses because it upset 200 children present at an Episcopal Church in Denver, Colorado in 2005. Protesters had been disturbed with the church’s position on abortion so they decided to oppose the church’s stance that Palm Sunday by displaying graphic images of aborted fetuses on the church’s property.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, "St. John's in the Wilderness Episcopal Church in Denver sued the protesters, arguing that the demonstration disrupted the religious procession and subjected young children to graphic and disturbing images during what was meant to be an inspiring display of religious devotion." This case was taken to the Supreme Court who declined to hear the case earlier this week.

The church's legal pursuit against Kenneth T. Scott and other anti-abortion protesters presents a parallel issue regarding religious visual representation. As mentioned in the New York Times, the court passively acknowledged "that the ban might seem to bar some depictions of the crucifixion." While the court's statement doesn't appear it's meant to be taken too seriously, it's important to consider that religious display of the crucifixion can be visually grotesque to children. This hasn't restricted churches that put on theatrical performances depicting Jesus' crucifixion.

As it states in the New York Times, the Colorado Court of Appeals order "was meant to suppress Mr. Scott's speech based on its content, something the government can do only if it has an exceptionally good reason." This was a legal measure based on the protection of children. The court's decision would carry more weight if other institutional practices catered to the safety of children in relation to visual representation, which is why it's important for the Supreme Court not to ignore ignore this type of case. For example, why isn't there substantial legal regulation of public porn advertising in Las Vegas in order to protect children? Although there are cases in which the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of restricting inappropriate visual displays, it simply does not do justice to the numerous accounts of detrimental graphic imagery operating across industries.

Freedom of speech is a vital component of national citizenship; however, it should be regulated in order to protect its citizens on all public platforms. If the court decides to suppress Scott's speech and imagery on abortion, then the court should also pursue action in regulating other forms of visual presentations that are not suitable for children.