Free Expression and Censorship in America: An Encyclopedia

Free Expression and Censorship in America: An Encyclopedia

Free Expression and Censorship in America: An Encyclopedia

Free Expression and Censorship in America: An Encyclopedia

Synopsis

Abortion, campaign financing, TV violence, homosexuality, and indecency on the Internet all have First Amendment implications, and all have been major political issues in the 1990s. During this decade, sex and secularism emerged as major targets of censorship, and an increasing number of Americans tested the limits of the Federal "decency" standards that were imposed on the arts, the broadcast media, and the Internet. America's interest in free expression has been paralleled by the growth of a powerful system of secrecy and censorship. This comprehensive encyclopedia documents the full history of the struggle in Congress, in the courts, and in our communities to define the modern contours of the First Amendment.

Excerpt

Abortion The subject of abortion has been a focus of free-speech controversy for many years. In the late nineteenth century, Anthony Comstock made a name for himself and his Society for the Suppression of Vice by confiscating printed material on sex, birth control, and abortion. In the early twentieth century, the Post Office banned the publications of Margaret Sanger from the mails because they spoke of birth control and abortion. Later, as family planning became a respectable part of middle-class American life, abortion became a legitimate aspect of public discussion and legal debate.

The Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing a woman's right to an abortion was followed by Bigelow v. Virginia (1976), which ruled unconstitutional a Virginia statute prohibiting any publication, lecture, or advertisement encouraging the procurement of an abortion. These decisions did not end the national debate, but only politicized it. Republican administrations under Presidents Reagan and Bush imposed a gag rule on any abortion counseling in federally supported clinics, a limitation on medical speech that was widely regarded as unconstitutional. Doctors were not even allowed to hand a patient the Yellow Pages, because they included listings of clinics that provide abortions. Nonetheless, in Rust v. Sullivan (1991), the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the regulations that required doctors in federally funded family-planning programs to advise pregnant women about the option of childbirth, to withhold all discussion of the option of abortion, and to provide a one-sided pro-life referral list for . . .

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