MINOT, N.D. — Everyone is a fierce advocate for the First Amendment when it comes to their own speech or speech they agree with.
That commitment to free expression tends to falter when it comes to speech we disagree with.
North Dakota’s university system is posturing itself for a legal challenge to a new law passed by the Legislature earlier this year prohibiting partnerships with groups that promote abortion. The catalyst for the bill was a long-standing grant arrangement between researchers at North Dakota State University and Planned Parenthood, the nation’s most prominent advocate for abortion and, given their campaign activities, a de facto arm of the Democratic Party.
The original bill included funding penalties for state institutions involved in such arrangements, but Gov. Doug Burgum neutered that part of the legislation with a line-item veto, leaving only the prohibition in place.
It has become little more than a rehashing of anti-abortion policy already in state law.
Still, the academics have worked themselves into a lather at what they perceive as an affront to academic freedom, and NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott has requested an opinion from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem on the legality of the bill.
Don’t expect the issue to stop there. Whichever way Stenehjem rules (and he may choose not to issue an opinion at all), this matter will likely appear before the courts.
It will be an interesting argument.