Cornell Law Review Volume 100 Issue 4

Gruesome Speech

May government officials restrict the display of “gruesome images” (in the words of one injunction), chiefly of aborted fetuses but also of slaughtered or injured animals?  How about gruesome words, for instance signs accusing abortion providers of being “murderers” or “killers”?

Some courts have upheld such restrictions, chiefly relying on the perceived need to shield children, the desire to prevent distractions to traffic, or a worry that offended viewers might attack the speakers.  Others have struck down such restrictions.  This Article argues that such restrictions are generally unconstitutional, though the matter is more complicated on special-purpose government property, such as fairgrounds, advertising spaces, and university campuses.

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