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Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Argued the cause for the appellant)
(Argued the cause for the appellee)
(Argued the cause for the appellant)
Facts of the Case 

A Virginia statute made it a misdemeanor for "any person, by publication, lecture, advertisement, or by the sale or circulation of any publication, or in any other manner, [from encouraging] or [prompting] the procuring of abortion or miscarriage." Bigelow, director and managing editor of the Virginia Weekly, was convicted under this law when his newspaper ran an advertisement for an organization which referred women to clinics and hospitals for abortions.


Did the Virginia law violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution?

Decision: 7 votes for Bigelow, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

The Court held that the Virginia law infringed upon Bigelow's First Amendment rights and violated the Constitution. Citing prior holdings such as New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), Justice Blackmun denied the Supreme Court of Virginia's ruling that commercial speech is not afforded First Amendment protection. Furthermore, the advertisement in question contained important information in the "public interest" which went beyond merely informing readers of a commercial service. Finally, the Court feared that the Virginia statute had the potential to "impair" national and interstate publications which might choose to carry similar advertisements.

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BIGELOW v. VIRGINIA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
BIGELOW v. VIRGINIA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"BIGELOW v. VIRGINIA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,