Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus

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Friday, March 06, 2015

Description:  An Ohio law criminalizes political speech that a state agency determines to be “false.” Former U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus sought to use the statute against the Susan B. Anthony List because the group attempted to erect billboards in his district during the 2010 election cycle. The billboards truthfully educated his constituents about his vote in support of the taxpayer funding of abortion by his vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act. One part of the lawsuit concerns whether SBA List can sue against the Ohio law under the First Amendment; another part of the lawsuit concerns Rep. Driehaus's accusation of defamation against SBA List.

Appeals court rejects former congressman’s lawsuit against pro-life group

ADF, allies asked 6th Circuit to uphold dismissal of baseless defamation case against Susan B. Anthony List
Friday, March 06, 2015

Attorney sound bite:  Casey Mattox

CINCINNATI – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit Friday upheld a district court ruling that threw out a former congressman’s defamation lawsuit against the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List. Former U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus filed the defamation case against SBA List after it publicized that his vote for Obamacare was a vote for taxpayer-funded abortion.

Alliance Defending Freedom, Bioethics Defense Fund, and Life Legal Defense Foundation filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 6th Circuit in March 2014 that argued the defamation lawsuit against SBA List is baseless because the group only told the truth.

“Five years into Obamacare, it is now evident that SBA List’s warnings were true. This law is forcing Americans to pay for abortions in numerous ways, and SBA List had a right to say so,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “If the exposure of that fact was part of what cost Rep. Driehaus his job, that’s because his constituents, like most Americans, reject taxpayer-funded abortion.”

Obamacare authorizes taxpayer funding of abortions in high-risk pools, community health funds, and subsidies for private health plans on Obamacare exchanges, and even forces many Americans to pay a monthly abortion surcharge.

“Driehaus vocally opposed the PPACA because of his concerns about federal funding for abortions, but he then voted for it anyway despite the absence of his desired language (the Stupak-Pitts Amendment) in the final version,” the 6th Circuit explained in its decision. “The Executive Order [from President Obama] adds language, but it is not part of the PPACA and does not alter the statutory text.… Driehaus’s own change of position demonstrates that [SBA List’s claims were not false].”

During the 2010 elections, SBA List made public statements and sought to erect billboards stating that Driehaus’s vote for Obamacare was a vote “for taxpayer-funded abortion.” Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission under an Ohio law prohibiting false speech about the voting record of candidates. The commission ordered SBA List to cease the statements while it investigated, but Driehaus dropped his complaint after the election. SBA List then challenged the Ohio law in federal court, arguing that it permitted government officials to censor political speech. Driehaus responded by suing SBA List for defamation.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided in June of last year that SBA List could challenge the Ohio law on First Amendment grounds. SBA List succeeded in its challenge three months later when a federal district court struck down the law.

“No group should be subject to defamation lawsuits simply for having the courage to say the emperor has no clothes,” said Bioethics Defense Fund Senior Counsel Dorinda Bordlee. “Every member of Congress was repeatedly advised that taxpayer funding of abortion could only be avoided by including a specific amendment in the Affordable Care Act. Instead, the only thing Americans received was an executive order from President Obama that has turned out to be meaningless, just as pro-life groups predicted.”

David R. Langdon and Robert A. Destro, two of more than 2,500 private attorneys allied with ADF, are co-counsel representing Susan B. Anthony List in the case, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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Friday, March 06, 2015

Previous news releases:

  • 2014-09-11: Federal court strikes down Ohio ‘truth commission’ law
  • 2014-06-16: Supreme Court: Americans have right to speak up for free speech
  • 2014-04-22: ADF on oral arguments in SBA List case: Americans have right to speak up for free speech
  • 2014-03-21: Brief: Telling the truth isn’t defamation
  • 2014-03-04: ADF to Supreme Court: Americans have right to speak up for free speech
  • 2014-01-10: US Supreme Court takes up critical free speech case

  • Casey Mattox: Three ways Obamacare forces Americans to fund Big Abortion (The Federalist, 2014-09-23)
  • Casey Mattox: In ‘right to lie’ case, SBA List told truth on abortion funding (The Federalist, 2014-06-16)

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