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Pro-Life Group Stops Lawmaker’s Attempt to Silence It

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 1/28/13 4:27 PM

National

A leading pro-life group has stopped a lawmaker’s attempt to silence it by taking it to court over advertisements exposing his voting record supporting the Obamacare bill that would fund abortions.

The lawsuit had prevented the pro-life group from buying some of the billboards it wanted to run in the 2012 elections.

The Susan B. Anthony List on Friday won a two year court battle with former Rep. Steve Driehaus on First Amendment grounds.  The congressman’s defamation lawsuit alleged that SBA List cost him his job and a “loss of livelihood” by educating constituents about his vote in favor of taxpayer funding of abortion in the health care bill.

“The concomitant principles of free speech and truth collide most violently in the arena of political speech. During the recently passed national elections, citizens were bombarded with political advertisements that the targets of which daily denounced as lies. Who then shall be the arbiter of political truth? Ultimately, in a free society, the truth of political back and forth must be adjudicated in the ‘marketplace of ideas,’” the decision stated.

“Notwithstanding all of this, the Court’s prior analysis is sound to a degree; when one walks through the elements of a claim for defamation, the required allegations are present here. However, that precise and robotic analysis of each of the factors required for defamation caused the Court to focus only on the trees and ultimately not to see the forest. Here, the forest is the right to free speech under the First Amendment, even false speech, when it applies to politics,” the decision added.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of SBA List, told LifeNews, “While we’re pleased with the outcome, this was a protracted legal battle that was taxing on our resources and should never have happened in a country that enshrines free speech.”

She said, “The blatant disregard for the First Amendment and the Constitutional right of people to speak out against the actions of those elected to represent them is unacceptable.”

Since Driehaus filed his suit, SBA List’s arguments have gained widespread support.  The ACLU of Ohio, in an amicus brief filed in the case, came to the group’s defense, declaring unequivocally, “The people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, the government should not be the arbiter of true or false speech, and the best answer for bad speech is more speech.”

SBA List wanted voters to be aware of the Congressman’s words and votes, and where he once stood on the issue saying, “Driehaus was originally opposed to the health care bill because it did not contain specific language preventing the funding of abortion, and that has not changed. The bill still lacks the necessary safeguards Driehaus said needed to be in place for him to support the legislation, and yet he voted for it. We made the voters in his district aware of his vote and there is nothing defaming about that,” said Dannenfelser.

At the time, a lawyer representing Rep. Driehaus ordered Lamar Companies not to put up the billboards until the matter was settled by the Ohio Elections Commission, or else he would add them to the complaint. Driehaus’ legal battle against SBA List is ongoing, including his defamation claim in which the former congressman alleges that the SBA List cost him his job and a “loss of livelihood” by educating constituents about his vote in favor of Obamacare.

When it was denied the ability to purchase billboards in Indiana, SBA List was upset.

“This continued assault on our free speech hits at the basic freedoms groups and individuals in this country enjoy to criticize their elected officials and to demand better representation,” said Dannenfelser.

She told LifeNews, “As time goes by there is greater and greater acknowledgment of the fact that under Obamacare, taxpayers are forced to fund abortion. Yet despite this growing consensus, the free speech of the SBA List continues to be chilled – first in Ohio, now in Indiana. Ex-Congressman Driehaus’ frivolous lawsuit, coupled with an unconstitutional Ohio statute, is pushing our pro-life voice out of the public square.

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Dannenfelser continued: “The Executive Order used to secure the votes of the so-called ‘pro-life’ Democrats including Steve Driehaus and Joe Donnelly was meaningless – and they should know it. As Obamacare is gradually implemented, some former Members of Congress are publicly lamenting their votes. Bart Stupak and Kathy Dahlkemper, for example, have decried the fact that with the HHS Mandate, President Obama violated the abortion funding ‘compromise’ they thought they had secured. They realized much too late what those of us in the pro-life movement knew long ago: that Obamacare was the largest expansion of abortion since Roe. Now, we are continuing to pay the price of speaking the truth.”

During the 2010 midterm elections, the Susan B. Anthony List helped defeat 15 out of 20 of the Democrats who failed to hold firm on their pro-life principles during the vote on the Affordable Care Act. The SBA List launched its Votes Have Consequences program to hold these so-called “pro-life” Democrats accountable for that career-defining vote which opened the flood gates for taxpayer funding of abortion.

The Susan B. Anthony List, and its affiliated Political Action Committees, the SBA List Candidate Fund and Women Speak Out PAC, are dedicated to pursuing policies and electing candidates who will reduce and ultimately end abortion.