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Defeated Pro-Life Democrat Driehaus Sues Pro-Life Group

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 12/3/10 5:22 PM

State

In the latest installment of the attacks on a pro-life group by a pro-life Democratic congressman, Steve Driehaus of Ohio has now filed a lawsuit against the Susan B. Anthony List.

Driehaus is the member of Congress who filed a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission during the waning days of the 2010 elections because SBA wanted to purchase billboards exposing his voting record.

The billboards would have informed his constituents that he had voted to support taxpayer funding of abortions by virtue of voting for the ObamaCare bill that all pro-life groups say will eventually fund abortions. The congressman claimed that is false and that the health care reform bill did not contain abortion funding.

Driehaus also complained to Lamar Advertising and successfully persuaded the company to not allow the billboard purchase.

SBA came back with its own advertising and supported pro-life Republican Steve Chabot, the sponsor of the national partial-birth abortion ban who defeated Driehaus in November for re-election to his old seat.

Now, Driehaus filed suit today against the SBA List.

“A lie is a lie,” Driehaus’ lawyers wrote in his federal defamation lawsuit, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “The First Amendment is not and never has been an invitation to concoct falsehoods aimed at depriving a person of his livelihood.”

Emily Buchanan, the executive director of the SBA List, emailed a response to LifeNews.com:

“Congressman Driehaus wants the exclusive right to describe his votes to his constituents.  In a democracy, that just can’t happen.

The Catholic Church, acting through the Bishops’ Conference, along with all the major pro-life organizations, in the country came to the same conclusion, the healthcare legislation Congressman Driehaus voted for allows for taxpayer funding of abortion.

Despite Congressman Driehaus’ attempt to criminalize free speech, his constituents heard the arguments.  They have already determined, as is appropriate in a democracy, which version they believe and which party is propagating the lie.

We will, of course, continue to defend the truth and the right to criticize our elected officials.”

Last month, Driehaus withdrew the election complaint that could have resulted in fines or jail time for the pro-life group, although the state may still issue a ruling.

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser told LifeNews.com at the time that “Driehaus’ decision to withdraw his complaint is a victory for the SBA List and for truth.”

“The Susan B. Anthony List will not object to Rep. Driehaus withdrawing his complaint as we do not want to spend additional time and resources defending what the public already knows to be true – that the health care bill funds abortions with taxpayer dollars,” she added. “Driehaus used an Ohio criminal statute to ensure that billboards stating the truth about his vote in favor of the pro-abortion health care bill were never erected.”

“Despite his efforts, Rep. Driehaus could not avoid facing the consequences of his health care vote at the ballot box,” Dannenfelser said. “On Election Day, Driehaus’ constituents sent a clear message by siding with the SBA List and voting him out of office.”

The complaint was so egregious that the Ohio chapter of the ACLU filed an amicus brief calling the state law ‘vague and overbroad,’ and said ‘it cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.’

The ACLU of Ohio went on to argue that ‘the people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, the government should not be the arbiter of true or false speech and, in any event, the best answer for bad speech is more speech.’ 

Dannenfelser said the Susan B. Anthony List will continue to pursue its federal case to declare the law unconstitutional in an effort to protect future speech.

A 2-1 panel of the state Elections Commission found probable cause to investigate the complaint further and scheduled the hearing.