Pro-Life Group’s Computers Seized, Fights “Pro-Life Democrat’s” Lawsuit

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 5, 2012   |   1:14PM   |   Washington, DC

A top-tier pro-life organization is still fighting a lawsuit from a former “pro-life Democratic” member of Congress who filed suit against the Susan B. Anthony List after it sought to run ads exposing his vote for pro-abortion Obamacare.

The billboards would have said, “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion,” had they been allowed to run.  The congressman, who was defeated by a pro-life Republican in 2010, claimed the contention was false and that the health care reform bill did not contain abortion funding. Driehaus complained to Lamar Advertising and successfully persuaded the company to not allow the billboard purchase.

Following that, he sued the SBA List and, in the latest update in the case, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the organization, says her group’s computers have been taken as evidence is being sought in the case.

“They seized my computer — and they’re going to take your free speech next,” Dannenfelser complained.

“Last week, SBA List’s lawsuit involving former Congressman — and ObamaCare supporter — Steve Driehaus heated up when many of the staffers at the Susan B. Anthony List had their computers seized as evidence,” she said. “I hope they look carefully because they’ll find tons of information revealing an organization that is unapologetically exercising its First Amendment rights to fight for the soul of pro-life America.”

Dannenfelser said the lawsuit from the disgruntled former Congressman and SBA’s fight against it is “about ensuring that organizations like SBA List can actually hold elected officials accountable for the votes they make in Congress, especially votes that have life and death consequences.”

Dannenfelser is concerned that every minute of time and every dollar it has to spend defending itself in court will take away from its pro-life efforts.

“As important as it is that we vigorously defend against the opposition’s efforts to strip us of our cherished First Amendment right to speak, every minute (and dollar) we spend doing it takes away from our efforts to defeat Planned Parenthood and their pro-abortion Congressional allies,” she said.

“Too many politicians try to hide the truth. No politician, bureaucracy, or court should have the power to silence the right of citizens to criticize the votes of their elected representatives,” Dannenfelser added. “This lawsuit is nothing more than a cowardly attempt to hide a vote for ObamaCare behind a panel of free speech regulators. No matter how they try to spin it, the facts are undisputedly on our side — ObamaCare provides for taxpayer funding for abortions and a vote for ObamaCare is a pro-abortion vote. This isn’t semantics; votes do have consequences. And pro-abortion politicians are fighting to keep America from learning the painful truth — that by passing ObamaCare our government is subsidizing the largest expansion of abortion in our lifetime.”

“Poll after poll confirms that the majority of Americans are pro-life. Politicians like Steve Driehaus know their agenda is becoming a permanent minority view. It doesn’t serve them to have organizations like SBA List speaking out boldly for the truth and having them answer for their votes,” she said.

“We refuse to be bullied and will not turn our backs on protecting unborn babies who would otherwise have no voice if we didn’t fight to defend the right to speak on their behalf,” she concluded. “Politicians like Steve Driehaus are turning their backs on them and trying to hide their votes, and then when we hold them accountable by bringing those votes to light, they are trying to use the federal courts to force us to incur massive legal fees and pay damages for allegedly depriving them of their ‘livelihood.’ But they are wrong.”

In August 2010 a pro-abortion-appointed judge ruled that Driehaus’ defamation lawsuit, alleging that the Susan B. Anthony List cost him his job and a “loss of livelihood” by educating constituents about his vote in favor of taxpayer funding of abortion in Obamacare, should be allowed to go to trial. The court also dismissed SBA’s challenge to Ohio’s False Statement law which empowers state officials to enforce stiff fines—even prison time—for candidate criticism they deem to be “false.”

Then, in November 2011, the federal district court in Cincinnati granted the Susan B. Anthony List’s motion to allow it to appeal the court’s earlier ruling, which had denied the SBA List’s motion for summary judgment. The SBA List had asked the court to grant it summary judgment against Driehaus’s defamation claims, but the court denied the motion, instead ruling that a trial was needed to determine if defamation occurred. So the SBA List filed a motion asking to appeal that ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.The court granted the SBA List’s motion allowing it to appeal the court’s decision denying summary judgment.

James Bopp, a prominent pro-life attorney representing SBA, stated that he believed this was the right decision, saying, “Other courts have ruled that the speech of groups like the SBA List, who try to educate the public about the votes of their representatives, is not capable of being defamation. We are hopeful that the Sixth Circuit will reach the same decision.”

Since Driehaus filed his suit last year, SBA List’s arguments have gained widespread support — as the ACLU of Ohio, in an amicus brief filed last October, came to the group’s defense. The pro-abortion legal group wrote, “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.”

Dannenfelser maintains that Driehaus and other Democrats who opposed the bill on abortion funding eventually caved when the Senate version — which contained no limited on abortion funding — received House approval with a pro-life amendment to stop the funding. President Barack Obama eventually signed the pro-abortion Obamacare bill into law and issued an executive order that did not stop abortion funding but merely restated the phony limits in the bill.

“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,” Dannenfelser concluded. “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.”

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, but he moved forward with the lawsuit.

“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.”