ACLU, NCAC Oppose Removal of Abortion-Related Art from Exhibition at Idaho College Art Gallery

Lewis-Clark State College announced that it will pull several artworks addressing abortion care from an upcoming exhibition for fear of violating the state’s No Public Funds for Abortion Act

March 3, 2023 2:23 pm

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LEWISTON, Idaho – In a letter sent to Lewis-Clark State College President Dr. Cynthia Pemberton, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) condemned the college’s decision to exclude artwork addressing reproductive care — including abortion care — from an upcoming exhibition because of its alleged violation of the state’s No Public Funds for Abortion Act (NPFAA).

Works from Lydia Nobles’ As I Sit Waiting series were slated to appear in the college’s Center for Arts & History exhibition titled Unconditional Care. However, days before the exhibition was set to open, Nobles received notice that her work violated the NPFAA, which prohibits the use of public funds for abortion, including speech that would “promote abortion” or “counsel in favor of abortion.”

As the ACLU, the ACLU of Idaho, and the NCAC explain in their letter, the college’s interpretation of the NPFAA — that it applies to works of art depicting the discussion of abortion — demonstrates the potential abuses of the act. The letter also explains that the college’s decision to censor Nobles’ important work threatens the First Amendment right to free expression.

“The college has pulled works of art documenting women speaking honestly about their experiences with pregnancy and abortion,” said Scarlet Kim, a staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “This decision silences their voices and deprives the public of a critical opportunity to engage in a broader conversation about these important topics. It jeopardizes a bedrock First Amendment principle that the state refrain from interfering with expressive activity because it disagrees with a particular point of view.”

Nobles’ work depicts individual stories that touch on a broad range of topics that are often heavily stigmatized and rarely spoken about: cryptic pregnancy, poverty, postpartum depression, birth injury, domestic violence, suicidal ideation, and giving one’s child up for adoption. Censoring this expression conflicts with the Center’s goal of enriching the campus and community at large. The ACLU, the ACLU of Idaho, and NCAC urge the college to reconsider its decision.

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