Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Girlfriend Had An Abortion Billboard and Your Rights

I am not going to go into if under a Catholic theological view of life that this the man in question should have posted this billboard talking about his ex girlfriends abortion. Perhaps later if I see if that facet becomes a topic on the Catholic blogs. ( I TEND TO SAY A BIG NO TO THIS THOUGH WITHOUT MUCH STUDY BECAUSE OF SOME VERY INDIVIDUAL FACTS OF THIS CASE)

As we see the legal tort and 1st amendment issues here are significant. I do wonder if this guy has the funds to hire proper counsel or that someone will step in to explore these issues. Read the whole thing including the comments. However I was very struck by this:

.......But let me set all these aside, and focus on a different, and less obvious, matter: While the fact pattern here is highly unusual (who buys billboards for such personal matters?), there are closely analogous patterns that are quite routine.

To begin with, note that whether an ex-lover has aborted what would have been your child is just one of many highly personal matters about a relationship. If it’s covered by the disclosure of private facts tort, then so would be quite a few other facts: whether your ex cheated on you, whether you and your ex had had sex, whether you found your ex to be sexually satisfying, whether your ex was impotent, whether your ex left you because he or she is actually gay (or, if you’re gay, because he or she is actually straight), whether your ex has cancer, whether your ex gave you a sexually transmitted disease, and so on. Some of these might be seen as marginally less “private” than the question whether your ex had had an abortion, but I don’t think there’d be any real constitutional difference between the two, or difference with respect to the common-law boundaries of the disclosure tort (or of state law relating to protection orders).

And note also that people often discuss these things when discussing their own lives. People who write their autobiographies often talk about why their marriages or relationships broke up, why they were depressed for a particular period of their lives, how their exes’ behavior affected their own later personality and behavior, and more. And of course these days lots more people are “writing their autobiographies”: They’re just called Facebook pages, blogs, Twitter feeds, and the like. “Dumped my girlfriend ’cause I caught her cheating with my best friend.” “I have to tell the truth about this: I have HIV, because my ex-husband gave it to me.” “I’m crushed: My boyfriend, who I thought was going to ask me to marry me, told me he’s gay.” (The disclosure tort is generally seen as not applying to communications to “a single person or even to a small group of persons,” so perhaps if you have just a few Facebook friends, a Facebook post wouldn’t be potentially covered by the disclosure tort. But if you have hundreds of Facebook friends, the tort would likely apply, as it would if you’re publishing things on an open blog or similarly open social-media system.)

So what should the law be in these situations? Should it protect the privacy of your exes (or your former friends, your family members, your former coworkers, and whoever else you’re talking about), even if that means that you can’t tell your life story, either in a traditional autobiography or in its modern running equivalents? Should the law allow you to discuss your personal life, even if in the process people will learn personal details about the lives of others, and will learn them even if you omit the others’ names (as in the billboard incident)? Or should the law focus on your supposed motive, and distinguish supposedly good-faith attempts to tell your life story, either in retrospect or as it happens, from supposed attempts to humiliate people you think have wronged you — and, if so, how can the law reliably and predictably do this, whether with the traditional autobiography or with Facebook or blog posts?

Its the brave new world of social media and we have yet to touch all these questions really.

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