MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.
An advertisement carried in appellant's newspaper led to his conviction for a violation of a Virginia statute that made it a misdemeanor, by the sale or circulation of any publication, to encourage or prompt the procuring of an abortion. The issue here is whether the editor-appellant's First Amendment rights were unconstitutionally abridged by the statute. The First Amendment, of course, is applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 160 (1939).
The Virginia Weekly was a newspaper published by the Virginia Weekly Associates of Charlottesville. It was issued in that city and circulated in Albemarle County, with particular focus on the campus of the University of Virginia. Appellant, Jeffrey C. Bigelow, was a director and the managing editor and responsible officer of the newspaper.
On February 8, 1971, the Weekly's Vol. V, No. 6, was published and circulated under the direct responsibility
It is to be observed that the advertisement announced that the Women's Pavilion of New York City would help women with unwanted pregnancies to obtain "immediate placement in accredited hospitals and clinics at low cost" and would "make all arrangements" on a "strictly confidential" basis; that it offered "information and counseling"; that it gave the organization's address and telephone numbers; and that it stated that abortions "are now legal in New York" and there "are no residency requirements." Although the advertisement did not contain the name of any licensed physician, the "placement" to which it referred was to "accredited hospitals and clinics."
On May 13 Bigelow was charged with violating Va. Code Ann. § 18.1-63 (1960). The statute at that time read:
Shortly after the statute was utilized in Bigelow's case, and apparently before it was ever used again, the Virginia Legislature amended it and changed its prior application and scope.
Appellant was first tried and convicted in the County Court of Albemarle County. He appealed to the Circuit Court of that county where he was entitled to a de novo trial. Va. Code Ann. §§ 16.1-132 and 16.1-136 (1960). In the Circuit Court he waived a jury and in July 1971
The Supreme Court of Virginia granted review and, by a 4-2 vote, affirmed Bigelow's conviction. 213 Va. 191, 191 S.E.2d 173 (1972). The court first rejected the appellant's claim that the advertisement was purely informational and thus was not within the "encourage or prompt" language of the statute. It held, instead, that the advertisement "clearly exceeded an informational status" and "constituted an active offer to perform a service, rather than a passive statement of fact." Id., at 193, 191 S. E. 2d, at 174. It then rejected Bigelow's First Amendment claim. This, the court said, was a "commercial advertisement" and, as such, "may be constitutionally prohibited by the state," particularly "where, as here, the advertising relates to the medical-health field." Id., at 193-195, 191 S. E. 2d, at 174-176. The issue, in the court's view, was whether the statute was a valid exercise of the State's police power. It answered this question in the affirmative, noting that the statute's goal was "to ensure that pregnant women in Virginia who decided to have abortions come to their decisions without the commercial advertising pressure usually incidental to the sale of a box of soap powder." Id., at 196, 191 S. E. 2d, at 176. The court then turned to Bigelow's claim of overbreadth. It held that because the
Bigelow took a timely appeal to this Court. During the pendency of his appeal, Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973), were decided. We subsequently vacated Bigelow's judgment of conviction and remanded the case for further consideration in the light of Roe and Doe. 413 U.S. 909 (1973).
The Supreme Court of Virginia, on such reconsideration, but without further oral argument, again affirmed appellant's conviction, observing that neither Roe nor Doe "mentioned the subject of abortion advertising" and finding nothing in those decisions "which in any way affects our earlier view."
This Court often has recognized that a defendant's standing to challenge a statute on First Amendment grounds as facially overbroad does not depend upon whether his own activity is shown to be constitutionally privileged. The Court consistently has permitted "attacks on overly broad statutes with no requirement that the person making the attack demonstrate that his own
This "exception to the usual rules governing standing," Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U. S., at 486, reflects the transcendent value to all society of constitutionally protected expression. We give a defendant standing to challenge a statute on grounds that it is facially overbroad, regardless of whether his own conduct could be regulated by a more narrowly drawn statute, because of the "danger of tolerating, in the area of First Amendment freedoms, the existence of a penal statute susceptible of sweeping and improper application." NAACP v. Button, 371 U. S., at 433.
Of course, in order to have standing, an individual must present more than "[a]llegations of a subjective `chill.' " There must be a "claim of specific present objective
Declaring a statute facially unconstitutional because of overbreadth "is, manifestly, strong medicine," and "has been employed by the Court sparingly and only as a last resort." Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 613 (1973). But we conclude that the Virginia courts erred in denying Bigelow standing to make this claim, where "pure speech" rather than conduct was involved, without any consideration of whether the alleged overbreadth was or was not substantial. Id., at 615, 616. The Supreme Court of Virginia placed no effective limiting construction on the statute. Indeed, it characterized the rights of doctors, husbands, and lecturers as "hypothetical," and thus seemed to imply that, although these were in the noncommercial zone, the statute might apply to them, too.
In view of the statute's amendment since Bigelow's conviction in such a way as "effectively to repeal" its prior application, there is no possibility now that the
A. The central assumption made by the Supreme Court of Virginia was that the First Amendment guarantees of speech and press are inapplicable to paid commercial advertisements. Our cases, however, clearly establish that speech is not stripped of First Amendment protection merely because it appears in that form. Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Human Rel. Comm'n, 413 U.S. 376, 384 (1973); New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 266 (1964).
The fact that the particular advertisement in appellant's newspaper had commercial aspects or reflected the advertiser's commercial interests did not negate all First Amendment guarantees. The State was not free of constitutional restraint merely because the advertisement involved sales or "solicitations," Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105, 110-111 (1943), or because appellant was paid for printing it, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S., at 266; Smith v. California, 361 U.S. 147, 150 (1959), or because appellant's motive or the motive of the advertiser may have involved financial gain, Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516, 531 (1945). The existence of "commercial activity, in itself, is no justification for narrowing the protection of expression secured by the First Amendment." Ginzburg v. United States, 383 U.S. 463, 474 (1966).
The appellee, as did the Supreme Court of Virginia, relies on Valentine v. Chrestensen, 316 U.S. 52 (1942), where a unanimous Court, in a brief opinion, sustained an ordinance which had been interpreted to ban the distribution of a handbill advertising the exhibition of a submarine. The handbill solicited customers to tour the ship for a fee. The promoter-advertiser had first attempted to distribute a single-faced handbill consisting only of the advertisement, and was denied permission to do so. He then had printed, on the reverse side of the handbill, a protest against official conduct refusing him the use of wharfage facilities. The Court found that the message of asserted "public interest" was appended solely for the purpose of evading the ordinance and therefore did not constitute an "exercise of the freedom of communicating information and disseminating opinion." Id., at 54. It said:
But the holding is distinctly a limited one: the ordinance was upheld as a reasonable regulation of the manner in which commercial advertising could be distributed. The fact that it had the effect of banning a particular handbill does not mean that Chrestensen is
This Court's cases decided since Chrestensen clearly demonstrate as untenable any reading of that case that would give it so broad an effect. In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, supra, a city official instituted a civil libel action against four clergymen and the New York Times. The suit was based on an advertisement carried in the newspaper criticizing police action against members of the civil rights movement and soliciting contributions for the movement. The Court held that this advertisement, although containing factually erroneous defamatory content, was entitled to the same degree of constitutional protection as ordinary speech. It said:
Chrestensen was distinguished on the ground that the handbill advertisement there did no more than propose
The principle that commercial advertising enjoys a degree of First Amendment protection was reaffirmed in Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Human Rel. Comm'n, 413 U.S. 376 (1973). There, the Court, although divided, sustained an ordinance that had been construed to forbid newspapers to carry help-wanted advertisements in sex-designated columns except where based upon a bona fide occupational exemption. The Court did describe the advertisements at issue as "classic examples of commercial speech," for each was "no more than a proposal of possible employment." Id., at 385. But the Court indicated that the advertisements would have received some degree of First Amendment protection if the commercial proposal had been legal. The illegality of the advertised activity was particularly stressed:
B. The legitimacy of appellant's First Amendment claim in the present case is demonstrated by the important differences between the advertisement presently at
Viewed in its entirety, the advertisement conveyed information of potential interest and value to a diverse audience—not only to readers possibly in need of the services offered, but also to those with a general curiosity about, or genuine interest in, the subject matter or the law of another State and its development, and to readers seeking reform in Virginia. The mere existence of the Women's Pavilion in New York City, with the possibility of its being typical of other organizations there, and the availability of the services offered, were not unnewsworthy. Also, the activity advertised pertained to constitutional interests. See Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973). Thus, in this case, appellant's First Amendment interests coincided with the constitutional interests of the general public.
Moreover, the placement services advertised in appellant's newspaper were legally provided in New York at that time.
A State does not acquire power or supervision over the internal affairs of another State merely because the welfare and health of its own citizens may be affected when they travel to that State. It may seek to disseminate information so as to enable its citizens to make better informed decisions when they leave. But it may not, under the guise of exercising internal police powers, bar
C. We conclude, therefore, that the Virginia courts erred in their assumptions that advertising, as such, was entitled to no First Amendment protection and that appellant Bigelow had no legitimate First Amendment interest. We need not decide in this case the precise extent to which the First Amendment permits regulation of advertising that is related to activities the State may legitimately regulate or even prohibit.
The Court has stated that "a State cannot foreclose the exercise of constitutional rights by mere labels." NAACP v. Button, 371 U. S., at 429. Regardless of the particular label asserted by the State—whether it calls speech "commercial" or "commercial advertising" or "solicitation" —a court may not escape the task of assessing the First Amendment interest at stake and weighing it against the public interest allegedly served by the regulation. The diverse motives, means, and messages of advertising may make speech "commercial" in widely varying degrees. We need not decide here the extent to which constitutional protection is afforded commercial advertising under all circumstances and in the face of all kinds of regulation.
The task of balancing the interests at stake here was one that should have been undertaken by the Virginia courts before they reached their decision. We need not
In support of the statute, the appellee contends that the commercial operations of abortion referral agencies are associated with practices, such as fee splitting, that tend to diminish, or at least adversely affect, the quality of medical care, and that advertising of these operations will lead women to seek services from those who are interested only or mainly in financial gain apart from professional integrity and responsibility.
The State, of course, has a legitimate interest in maintaining the quality of medical care provided within its borders. Barsky v. Board of Regents, 347 U.S. 442, 451 (1954). No claim has been made, however, that this particular advertisement in any way affected the quality of medical services within Virginia. As applied to Bigelow's case, the statute was directed at the publishing of informative material relating to services offered in another State and was not directed at advertising by a referral agency or a practitioner whose activity Virginia had authority or power to regulate.
To be sure, the agency-advertiser's practices, although not then illegal, may later have proved to be at least "inimical to the public interest" in New York. S. P. S. Consultants, Inc. v. Lefkowitz, 333 F.Supp. 1373, 1378 (SDNY 1971).
No claim has been made, nor could any be supported on this record, that the advertisement was deceptive or fraudulent,
The strength of appellant's interest was augmented by the fact that the statute was applied against him as publisher and editor of a newspaper, not against the advertiser or a referral agency or a practitioner. The prosecution thus incurred more serious First Amendment overtones.
If application of this statute were upheld under these circumstances, Virginia might exert the power sought here over a wide variety of national publications or interstate newspapers carrying advertisements similar to the one that appeared in Bigelow's newspaper or containing articles on the general subject matter to which
We conclude that Virginia could not apply Va. Code Ann. § 18.1-63 (1960), as it read in 1971, to appellant's publication of the advertisement in question without unconstitutionally infringing upon his First Amendment rights. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Virginia is therefore reversed.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, with whom MR. JUSTICE WHITE joins, dissenting.
The Court's opinion does not confront head-on the question which this case poses, but makes contact with
I am in agreement with the Court, ante, at 817-818, that Virginia's statute cannot properly be invalidated on grounds of overbreadth,
Since the Court concludes, apparently from two lines of the advertisement, ante, at 812, that it conveyed information of value to those interested in the "subject matter or the law of another State and its development" and to those "seeking reform in Virginia," ante, at 822, and since the ad relates to abortion, elevated to constitutional stature by the Court, it concludes that this advertisement is entitled to something more than the limited constitutional protection traditionally accorded commercial advertising. See ante, at 825 n. 10. Although recognizing that "[a]dvertising, like all public expression, may be subject to reasonable regulation that serves a legitimate public interest," ante, at 826, the Court for reasons not entirely clear to me concludes that Virginia's interest is of "little, if any, weight." Ante, at 828.
As a threshold matter the advertisement appears to me, as it did to the courts below, to be a classic commercial proposition directed toward the exchange of services rather than the exchange of ideas. It was apparently also so interpreted by the newspaper which published it which stated in apparent apology in its following issue that the " `Weekly collective has since learned that this abortion agency . . . as well as a number of other commercial groups are charging women a fee for a service which is done free by Women's Liberation, Planned Parenthood, and others.' " 213 Va. 191, 194, 191 S.E.2d 173, 175 (1972). Whatever slight factual content the advertisement may contain and
Assuming arguendo that this advertisement is something more than a normal commercial proposal, I am unable to see why Virginia does not have a legitimate public interest in its regulation. The Court apparently concedes, ante, at 825 n. 10, and our cases have long held, that the States have a strong interest in the prevention of commercial advertising in the health field—both in order to maintain high ethical standards in the medical profession and to protect the public from unscrupulous practices. See, e. g., Semler v. Dental Examiners, 294 U.S. 608, 612 (1935); Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483, 490-491 (1955); North Dakota Pharmacy Bd. v. Snyder's Stores, 414 U.S. 156 (1973). And the interest asserted by the Supreme Court of Virginia in the Virginia statute was the prevention of commercial exploitation of those women who elect to have an abortion:
The concern of the Virginia Supreme Court was not a purely hypothetical one. As the majority notes, ante, at 822-823, n. 8, although New York at the time of this advertisement allowed profitmaking abortion referral agencies, it soon thereafter passed legislation prohibiting commercial advertisement of the type here in issue. The court in S. P. S. Consultants, Inc. v. Lefkowitz, 333 F.Supp. 1373, 1378 (SDNY 1971), quoted the author of that legislation on the reasons for its passage:
The source of this rigid territorial limitation on the power of the States in our federal system to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens is not revealed. It is surely not to be found in cases from this Court.
Were the Court's statements taken literally, they would presage a standard of the lowest common denominator for commercial ethics and business conduct. Securities issuers could circumvent the established bluesky laws of States which had carefully drawn such laws for the protection of their citizens by establishing as a situs for transactions those States without such regulations, while spreading offers throughout the country. Loan sharks might well choose States with unregulated small loan industries, luring the unwary with immune
Since the Court saves harmless from its present opinion our prior cases in this area, ante, at 825 n. 10, it may be fairly inferred that it does not intend the results which might otherwise come from a literal reading of its opinion. But solely on the facts before it, I think the Court today simply errs in assessing Virginia's interest in its statute because it does not focus on the impact of the practices in question on the State. Cf. Young v. Masci, 289 U.S. 253 (1933). Although the commercial referral agency, whose advertisement in Virginia was barred, was physically located outside the State, this physical contact says little about Virginia's concern for the touted practices. Virginia's interest in this statute lies in preventing commercial exploitation of the health needs of its citizens. So long as the statute bans commercial advertising by publications within the State, the extraterritorial location at which the services are actually provided does not diminish that interest.
Since the statute in question is a "reasonable regulation that serves a legitimate public interest," ante, at 826, I would affirm the judgment of the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Michael M. Kearney filed a brief for Virginia Right to Life, Inc., as amicus curiae urging affirmance.
"18.1-63. If any person, by publication, lecture, advertisement, or by the sale or circulation of any publication, or through the use of a referral agency for profit, or in any other manner, encourage or promote the processing of an abortion or miscarriage to be performed in this State which is prohibited under this article, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."
It is to be observed that the amendment restricts the statute's application, with respect to advertising, to an abortion illegal in Virginia and to be performed there. Since the State's statutes purport to define those abortions that are legal when performed in the State, see Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.1-62.1 and 18.1-62.3 (Supp. 1975), the State at oral argument described the pre-1972 form of § 18.1-63 as "effectively repealed by amendment," and, citing Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973), the statute, as amended, as limited to an abortion performed by a nonphysician. Tr. of Oral Arg. 38-39. In any event, there is no dispute here that the amended statute would not reach appellant's advertisement.
"Medical referral services, organized as profit making enterprises within this state, have been . . . in violation of the standards of ethics and public policy applicable to the practice of medicine and which would be violations of standards of professional conduct if the acts were performed by physicians. . . . It is hereby declared to be the public policy of this state . . . that such profit making medical referral service organizations be declared to be invalid and unlawful in this state."
Section 4501 (1) provides:
"No person, firm, partnership, association or corporation, or agent or employee thereof, shall engage in for profit any business or service which in whole or in part includes the referral or recommendation of persons to a physician, hospital, health related facility, or dispensary for any form of medical care or treatment of any ailment or physical condition. The imposition of a fee or charge for any such referral or recommendation shall create a presumption that the business or service is engaged in for profit."
A violation of the statute is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not longer than one year or a fine of not more than $5,000 or both. § 4502 (1). Article 45 expressly is made inapplicable to a nonprofit corporation exempt from federal income taxation under § 501 (c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, 26 U. S. C. § 501 (c). § 4503.
The 1971 statute has been upheld against constitutional challenge. S. P. S. Consultants, Inc. v. Lefkowitz, 333 F.Supp. 1373 (SDNY 1971).
By a 1973 amendment, Acts of Assembly 1973, c. 529, to its statute dealing with unprofessional conduct by a member of the medical or a related profession, Virginia prohibits advertising by a physician. Specifically, Va. Code Ann. § 54-317 (1974) now provides:
"Any practitioner of medicine . . . shall be considered guilty of unprofessional conduct if he:
"(13) Advertises to the general public directly or indirectly in any manner his professional services, their costs, prices, fees, credit terms or quality."
See also Va. Code Ann. §§ 54-278.1 and 54-317 (4), (5), and (6) (1974).
We, of course, have no occasion to comment here on whatever constitutional issue, if any, may be raised with respect to these statutes.
Nor need we comment here on the First Amendment ramifications of legislative prohibitions of certain kinds of advertising in the electronic media, where the "unique characteristics" of this form of communication "make it especially subject to regulation in the public interest." Capital Broadcasting Co. v. Mitchell, 333 F.Supp. 582, 584 (DC 1971), aff'd, 405 U.S. 1000 (1972). See also Banzhaf v. FCC, 132 U. S. App. D. C. 14, 405 F.2d 1082 (1968), cert. denied sub nom. Tobacco Institute, Inc. v. FCC, 396 U.S. 842 (1969); Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Democratic National Committee, 412 U.S. 94 (1973).
Our decision also is in no way inconsistent with our holdings in the Fourteenth Amendment cases that concern the regulation of professional activity. See North Dakota Pharmacy Bd. v. Snyder's Stores, 414 U.S. 156 (1973); Head v. New Mexico Board, 374 U.S. 424 (1963); Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483 (1955); Barsky v. Board of Regents, 347 U.S. 442 (1954); Semler v. Dental Examiners, 294 U.S. 608 (1935).
"Acts done outside a jurisdiction, but intended to produce and producing detrimental effects within it, justify a State in punishing the cause of the harm as if he had been present at the effect . . . ." Mr. Justice McKenna in Hyde v. United States, 225 U.S. 347, 363 (1912), observed that "this must be so if we would fit the laws and their administration to the acts of men and not be led away by mere `bookish theorick.' " See, e. g., Skiriotes v. Florida, 313 U.S. 69, 74-75 (1941); Ford v. United States, 273 U.S. 593, 620-621 (1927). To the extent that the Court's conclusion that Virginia has a negligible interest in its statute proceeds from the assumption that the State was without power to regulate the extraterritorial activities of the advertiser involving Virginia residents, it is quite at war with our prior cases.