The question might seem absurd. Planned Parenthood can’t walk down the block with a Glock in its holster.
Yet Planned Parenthood is a corporation — a legal person — and corporations enjoy many of same the rights as natural persons. In Citizens United, the Supreme Court held that corporations have a First Amendment right to make independent political campaign expenditures from their treasuries. Last year, in a case involving the chain store Hobby Lobby, the Court held that corporations have religious liberty under a federal statute, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The first Supreme Court decision recognizing corporate rights was in 1809. Long before Citizens United, courts held that corporations have a Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, a Fifth Amendment right against uncompensated takings of property, and Fourteenth Amendment rights of equal protection and due process. When the basic purpose of a constitutional right is served by extension to a corporate entity, corporations should ordinarily be entitled to assert them.
Many of the most important cases advancing constitutional rights were brought by corporations, both non‐profit (the NAACP) and for‐profit (the New York Times). Likewise, many significant abortion rights cases have been brought in the name of Planned Parenthood.
Just last week, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Constitution permits states to require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Challenging the law is Whole Women’s Health, a limited liability corporation, that, like Planned Parenthood, provides health‐care and abortion services.
Recognizing Planned Parenthood’s right to bear arms serves the basic purposes of the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court has held that the core purpose of the Second Amendment is self‐defense. Like an individual, Planned Parenthood needs to defend its property and to defend the people — doctors, nurses, staff, and patients — who go there. Security is essential for an organization subject to so many threats that the Department of Justice created a dedicated task force just to combat violence at clinics.
Corporate gun rights are not a new idea. After the War of 1812, states granted corporate charters to a variety of organizations whose purpose was to provide training in marksmanship and other Second Amendment skills.