Saturday, September 25, 2004

First Amendment: Is there a right to clone?

Brian Alexander has an interesting article in Sunday's N.Y. Times Magazine in which he raises the possibility that scientific research is protected by the First Amendment, just like speech. The gist of the article is in the following paragraphs:
Why legal scholars would defend the right to research is hardly mysterious. The founding fathers passionately defended scientific and academic freedom, and the Supreme Court has traditionally had a high regard for it. In Griswold v. Connecticut, for example, the decision that struck down state prohibitions on the sale of contraceptives, the court stated that the First Amendment protected ''freedom of inquiry.'' But why would the right to read, write and speak as you please extend to the right to experiment in the lab?

Arguments in favor of applying First Amendment scrutiny to antiresearch laws can be complex, but the metaphors lawyers have used are not. One, proposed in separate articles by John Robertson of the University of Texas and James Ferguson, who teaches at Northwestern, compares scientists to reporters. As with journalism, actions that are not strictly speech (research) are so necessary to speech (publishing) that to ban them is to ban the speech.

R. Alta Charo, legal scholar and bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin, says that some experiments are constitutionally protected ''expressive conduct'' in their own right. ''If the questions you ask and the science you do really challenges or explores cultural or religious or political norms . . . that in itself is an act of rebellion, and this is exactly the sort of thing that fits comfortably in the spirit of the First Amendment.''
Just to be clear: this is not an argument that funding -- say, for embryonic stem cell research or cloning -- is constitutionally protected, only that a ban on such research would be constitutionally protected.
posted by tommayo, 11:00 PM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter