Under the First Amendment, state intervention in conversations between physicians and prospective parents about prenatal whole genome sequencing (PWGS) should trigger at least heightened scrutiny. Part I of this Article provides an overview of the most recent advances in genetic testing. It assesses the ongoing impact of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) for providers and patients and charts the course from NIPT to PWGS. Part II establishes a foundational background for evaluating First Amendment claims. Part II.A describes the development of First Amendment jurisprudence, focusing on the doctrinal distinctions between levels of judicial scrutiny. Part II.B explores historical Supreme Court case law addressing professional speech. Part III surveys the current legal landscape. Using a handful of recent Circuit cases, Part III.A demonstrates that the legal frameworks for assessing physician speech qua professional speech are shambolic. Part III.B provides an overview of the most recent Supreme Court ruling on professional speech in the 2018 case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. Part IV uses the material in Parts I–III to predict how legislative efforts to limit reproductive decision-making are likely to manifest in the PWGS context. Based on the case analyses in Part III, Part IV identifies the Fourth and Eleventh Circuit approaches as the most defensible for future judicial interventions. This Article concludes that state-based restrictions on PWGS-related speech would be vulnerable to First Amendment challenges and unlikely to survive heightened judicial scrutiny.
The Future of Physicians’ First Amendment Freedom: Professional Speech in an Era of Radically Expanded Prenatal Genetic Testing
Wynter K. Miller & Benjamin E. Berkman
June 19, 2019