Court Rules For Pro-Life Group’s Free Speech Rights Against Pro-Abortion Congressman

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 6, 2015   |   4:12PM   |   Washington, DC

A court has ruled in favor of a pro-life women’s group in a case regarding whether it has a First Amendment right to expose the pro-abortion records of political candidates.

The Susan B. Anthony List has been fighting to allow their First Amendment challenge to Ohio’s “false statement” law to proceed on the grounds that the statute empowers a state agency to determine what constitutes true or false political speech.

In 2010, SBA List attempted to erect billboards to expose then Rep. Steve Driehaus for supporting taxpayer funded abortion by voting for the Affordable Care Act. SBA List was prevented from doing so because of the Ohio law, and was threatened with prosecution if it engaged in similar speech about Driehaus or other candidates in Ohio.

The Supreme Court , in a unanimous decision, ruled the pro-life group has standing to continue its First Amendment challenge to Ohio’s “false statement” law.

Now, a federal appeals court has issued a ruling in the case. Alliance Defending Freedom has more:

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.

“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.”