By Shawn L. Fultz | 63 Am. U. L. Rev. 563 (2013)
The First Amendment protects the speech of health care providers. This protection can limit states’ abilities to protect patients from harmful therapies involving speech, such as sexual orientation change efforts. Because providers’ speech is more similar to commercial speech than traditional political discourse, it is possible to create a First Amendment review analysis that better balances states’ police powers with providers’ First Amendment rights. Under a “single-prong” approach, the first prong of Central Hudson can be used to identify quackery, which is analogous to false or misleading commercial speech and would therefore be outside the protection of the First Amendment. Because health care must be tailored to individual patients, restrictions on speech that survive the first prong of Central Hudson would be subject to strict scrutiny in order to leave the therapeutic decision to the provider and her patient, and maintain consistency with current jurisprudence.
This Comment examines litigation from California’s attempted ban on sexual orientation change therapy to illustrate the conflicts created by the current approach to First Amendment review of health care provider speech. This Comment then demonstrates the benefit of the proposed single-prong approach, including how it simultaneously protects patients from harm while protecting health care providers’ speech.