June 24, 2011 -- A judge has ordered the New Mexico man who put up a billboard suggesting his ex-girlfriend had had an abortion to remove the sign immediately.
This ruling was part of a protective order that Nani Lawrence sought after ex-boyfriend Greg Fultz, 35, put up the billboard along Alamogordo's main thoroughfare in mid-May. Lawrence took him to court with a petition for domestic violence and charges of harassment and invasion of privacy.
The billboard has a photo of Greg 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!"
Even after the judge's order, Fultz intends to leave the billboard up. "I personally have no plans to voluntarily take it down," he said. "If I have to sit in jail, so be it. That's the cost you pay for standing up for what you believe in."
Fultz believes the order is a violation of his right to free speech. "As it stands now, the billboard is nothing but a statement of free speech. It identifies nobody," Fultz said.
Todd Holmes, Fultz's lawyer, said he is filing a motion to "stay the execution of the order." This means the order to remove the billboard would be on hold until the defense gets a ruling that the sign is not protected under the First Amendment. It could take up to two weeks for this motion to be processed and decided upon.
"Greg is willing to go to jail for this," Holmes said. "He has that level of passion about the First Amendment."
Fultz claims that Lawrence was pregnant with his child during their six-month relationship last year. He admitted that when the relationship ended, the baby was lost, but he did not know whether it was because of an abortion or a miscarriage. Fultz said 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 did say, however, that the idea was "inspired" by events in his life.
In an earlier interview with ABCNews.com, Fultz said, "My original intentions when I started this campaign were quite simple. 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."
Holmes maintains 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 privacy."
Billboard's Endorsements Removed Due to Controversy
The original billboard had two endorsements that have since been removed. The first was from the National Association for Needed Information, or NANI, an organization Fultz created for the study of anti-abortion issues. The acronym also happens to be his ex-girlfriend's first name.
After a few weeks, Fultz removed the NANI endorsement because its mention distracted people from the intended message, he said.
An anti-abortion rights organization called Right to Life New Mexico had also originally endorsed Fultz's billboard and given its permission for Fultz to use its logo. But it pulled its endorsement when it learned that Fultz was unsure whether Lawrence had had an abortion or a miscarriage.
The billboard cost $1,300, which Fultz paid for with the help of donations. Fultz said the donations came from various individuals who heard about his plan, not from businesses or other anti-abortion rights groups.
According to the Alamogordo Daily News, Thursday's court order said that both Fultz and Lawrence must appear before Commissioner Darrell N. Brantley in Domestic Violence Court.