A New Mexico man said today he will fight to keep up a controversial billboard that suggested his ex-girlfriend had an abortion.
The billboard has a photo ofGreg Fultz holding the outline of a baby with a playground in the background. The large text beside the photo reads, "This Would Have Been a Picture Of My 2-Month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To NOT KILL Our Child!"
The sign is on White Sands Boulevard, the main thoroughfare in Alamogordo, N.M., and has been up since mid-May. Fultz's ex-girlfriend Nani Lawrence took him to court with a petition for domestic violence and charges of harassment and invasion of privacy.
Fultz, 35, claims that Lawrence was pregnant with his child during their six-month relationship last year. He admits that when the relationship ended, the baby was lost, but he does not know whether it was due to an abortion or a miscarriage. Fultz says that Lawrence would not tell him what happened.
Fultz maintains that the billboard was part of a greater message and was not aimed at his ex-girlfriend. He does admit, however, that the idea was "inspired" by events in his own life.
"My original intentions when I started this campaign were quite simple," Fultz said. "I just wanted to shed the light on pro-life issues and fathers' rights. I have had no closure over my own personal loss and that's where the billboard came into play."
Last week, Otero County Domestic Violence Court hearing commissioner Darrell Brantley recommended an order of protection for Lawrence and that the billboard be removed by 8:14 a.m. on June 17 on the grounds of harassment.
Judge James W. Counts is expected to approve these recommendations, but his office says they cannot comment on pending cases.
Fultz's attorney Todd Holmes said the court commissioner has stated he will recommend jail time if Fultz does not remove the billboard by June 17. They are planning on objecting to the ruling.
When asked if he is going to take down his sign, Fultz replied, "No. I will fight this until I have no other options. I'm standing up for what I believe in. I'm hoping it doesn't come to that, but I will do whatever I have to do to keep my legal message up there."
Holmes argues that the lawsuit is a violation of his client's right to free speech.
"Our solid position is that it's protected by the First Amendment," Holmes said. "A lot of offensive, distasteful speech seems like it might be harassment, but it's still protected."
Holmes cites the recent Supreme Court decision in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for its anti-gay rallies and protesting at military funerals. The court ruled that the activities are protected by the First Amendment's right to free speech.
Lawrence could not be reached for comment, but her lawyer Ellen Jessen told the Alamogordo Daily News, "I think Fultz's right to free speech ends where Nani Lawrence's right to privacy begins. ... We have to balance one's right to free speech against one's right to free speech."
The original billboard had two endorsements that have since been removed. The first was from N.A.N.I., an organization Fultz created for pro-life issues that stands for National Association for Needed Information. The acronym also happens to be his ex-girlfriend's first name.
After a few weeks, Fultz removed N.A.N.I. due to the controversy distracting people from the intended message, he says.
A pro-life organization called Right to Life New Mexico had also originally endorsed Fultz's billboard and given their permission for him to use their logo. However, they pulled their endorsement when they discovered that Fultz was unsure whether Lawrence had an abortion or miscarriage.
The billboard cost $1,300, paid for by Fultz with the help of donations. Fultz says that the donations came from various individuals who heard about his plan, not from any businesses or other pro-life or organizations. The GEFNET endorsement on the billboard is from Fultz's own business.