West Virginia Pro-Life Group Takes on State Election Law Limiting Free Speech

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 8, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

West Virginia Pro-Life Group Takes on State Election Law Limiting Free Speech

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
October 8
, 2008

Charleston, WV (LifeNews.com) — The leading pro-life group in West Virginia is taking on a campaign finance law that it says makes it harder to get out the pro-life message. West Virginians for Life is asking a federal court to prevent West Virginia from enforcing unconstitutional parts of the law.

A hearing on a preliminary-injunction motion is set for this morning at the federal courthouse in Charleston.

Between now and Election Day, the pro-life group plans to run a radio ad, mass mailing, and petition about a 1993 West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals decision requiring West Virginia to pay for abortions for Medicaid recipients.

Yet the communications mention the author of the decision, who is a candidate in the 2008 election for a seat on the court. So WVFL fears the communications will bring serious consequences under West Virginia law.

West Virginia law bans corporations from doing “express advocacy.” Because the express-advocacy definition is vague, WVFL cannot know for sure whether its communications are banned.

Therefore, the pro-life group asks that the federal court hold that it is the type of nonprofit corporation that has a First Amendment right to do express advocacy. This will allow WVFL to do its communications no matter how West Virginia defines express advocacy.

WVFL also asks the court to hold that the vagueness of the express-advocacy definition makes the express-advocacy reporting requirements vague, and therefore unconstitutional.

The pro-life organization also fears that doing any of its planned communications would convert it into a political committee under West Virginia law. That means WVFL would have to bear all the burdens West Virginia places on political committees.

WVFL asks that the court hold that these burdens are unconstitutional. The reason is that WVFL is not under the control of, nor does it have the major purpose of nominating or electing, one or more candidates for state or local office in West Virginia.

The group claims these requirements violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.

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