The Susan B. Anthony List is a pro-life group that experienced great success in the 2010 midterm elections. One of those successes was the victory of Republican Steve Chabot over incumbent Democrat Steve Driehaus in Ohio’s 1st District. The SBA criticized Driehaus for voting in favor of ObamaCare, which the organization maintained would include taxpayer funding for abortion. There were plans to express this criticism on some billboards in Ohio, but the SBA and Driehaus got busy suing each other, and no one ever got around to putting up any billboards.
The bone of contention is an Ohio law that forbids “false statements concerning the voting record of a candidate or public official.” Driehaus reported the Susan B. Anthony List to the Ohio Election Commission for violating this law, because he said their assertions about ObamaCare funding abortions were untrue.
The Susan B. Anthony List received support from all the usual pro-life sources: the National Right to Life Committee, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the American Civil Liberties Union… whoa, wait a second, what’s the ACLU doing in there? According to their October 2010 press release, they filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Susan B. Anthony List because the Ohio law “unconstitutionally restricts the group’s First Amendment rights to criticize elected officials. The law prohibits groups from publishing ‘false’ ads, but allows the government to determine whether the speech is false.”
James Hardiman, ACLU of Ohio’s legal director, added, “The right to dissent is foundational to our democracy. By allowing the government to be the final arbitrator of what speech is acceptable, we open the door for those who are critical of elected officials to be silenced.”
Was the SBA’s criticism of abortion funding in ObamaCare “untrue?” You may recall the infamous moment in the health-care debate when supposedly “pro-life” congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI) cashed out his insistence on firm language against such funding. The few paper-thin restrictions on abortion funding in the massive ObamaCare law are all tied to the Hyde Amendment, which must be re-authorized yearly, and could be repealed by executive order. No Hyde-related restrictions are applied to the billions in funding directed to “community health centers,” many of which happen to be owned by Planned Parenthood. High-risk insurance pools created by ObamaCare in Pennsylvania and New Mexico were caught red-handed funding abortions, to the great consternation of congressman John Boehner… who was the House minority leader at the time, but has since received a promotion to Speaker.
At the very least, the Susan B. Anthony List’s assertion is debatable. A strong case could be made that insisting ObamaCare would not fund abortions is more like an outright lie.
Driehaus decided the Ohio Elections Commission is too small for his sacred cause, and withdrew his complaint so he could file a federal defamation lawsuit against the Susan B. Anthony List for depriving him of his livelihood. In his announcement, he decried the ability of “more and more interests” to “anonymously spend unlimited money in attempts to defame public servants and influence our elections.” Anonymous? The Susan B. Antony List was trying to splash its name across billboards. They’re about as anonymous as the Kardashians.
I just tried to think of a more infuriating example of elitist entitlement and entrenched political privilege than Driehaus’ federal case, but I couldn’t come up with anything off the top of my head. SBA president Marjorie Dannenfelser didn’t like it much, either. In a statement released by her organization, she said:
“Counter to his claims, the voters of Ohio’s First District are the ones that cost Steve Driehaus his livelihood. Congressman Steve Driehaus’ problem is not that the Susan B. Anthony List allegedly lied about his vote for taxpayer-funded abortion in the health care bill. It’s that he caved when it counted, took the wrong vote, and paid the price on Election Day.
Now he wants exclusive rights to describing that vote to his constituents and, in a democracy, that just isn’t possible. All major pro-life organizations along with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who speak on behalf of the Catholic Church, came to the same conclusion: that the health care bill Congressman Driehaus voted for allows taxpayer funding of abortion.
Despite his best efforts to criminalize the SBA List’s free speech, Driehaus’ constituents heard the truth about his pro-abortion vote and have already determined whose description of that vote is true. The SBA List will continue to defend that truth and the right to criticize our elected officials.”
In the collectivist future, taxpayers will be compelled to subsidize a great many things, including activities they find morally repugnant. They will be required to suspend their moral judgment and accept the wisdom of the almighty State. Steve Driehaus did his part to drag us into that future. The Susan B. Anthony List did nothing out of line in holding him accountable. Maybe Driehaus should have spent more time casting votes he could be proud of.