Supreme Court okays pro-life challenge to Ohio election speech law
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that the Susan B. Anthony List has standing to challenge an Ohio law allowing a state agency to bar the group from putting up billboards saying a political candidate supported abortion funding.
“We are optimistic that the district court will rule quickly and will side with the First Amendment, so that we may proceed in Ohio – without fear of prosecution – with our ongoing efforts to inform voters that their elected representatives voted for taxpayer funded abortion,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said June 16.
The group attempted to set up billboards in Ohio in 2010, arguing that then-U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus had supported taxpayer funded abortion by voting for the Affordable Care Act.
Driehaus filed a criminal complaint with the Ohio elections commission under a state law which bars making false statements about a candidate or public official’s voting records.
Driehaus, a pro-life Democrat, rejected the argument that his vote funded abortions. The Susan B. Anthony List cited groups such as the National Right to Life Committee and the U.S. bishops' conference, which objected to the bill on the grounds that its provisions would fund abortions by funding health care plans that cover abortion.
One pro-life group, Democrats for Life of America, sided with Driehaus in the dispute.
Driehaus also filed a defamation lawsuit against the Susan B. Anthony List, though the two-year-long legal case resulted in a decision in favor of the pro-life organization in January, 2013.
The Susan B. Anthony List has claimed that Driehaus’ lawyer convinced the billboard company Lamar Companies not to put up the billboards in order to avoid being added to the complaint.
Driehaus withdrew the election board complaint after he lost his 2010 re-election bid. The Susan B. Anthony List decided to continue its legal challenge against the Ohio law, joined by other opponents of the election rules.
Lower courts had ruled that the pro-life group lacked standing to challenge the law because the complaint had been withdrawn.
However, the Supreme Court agreed unanimously that the Susan B. Anthony List and others affected by the law suffer from a “credible threat of enforcement.”
The ruling means that the legal challenge may resume.
“Today’s decision by the court is a step toward victory for the freedom of speech and the broad coalition of groups who have supported SBA List throughout this case,” Dannenfelser said.
“The truth or falsity of political speech should be judged by voters, not government bureaucrats.”
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