Court Sides with Pro-life Group in First Amendment Battle with Defeated Democrat
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 28, 2013
Contact: Mallory Quigley, 202-223-8073
Chilling Effect on Future Elections Averted with Group’s Legal Victory
WASHINGTON, DC –The Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) on Friday won a two year court battle with former Rep. Steve Driehaus on First Amendment grounds. The congressman’s defamation lawsuit alleged that SBA List cost him his job and a “loss of livelihood” by educating constituents about his vote in favor of taxpayer funding of abortion in the health care bill.
“The concomitant principles of free speech and truth collide most violently in the arena of political speech. During the recently passed national elections, citizens were bombarded with political advertisements that the targets of which daily denounced as lies. Who then shall be the arbiter of political truth? Ultimately, in a free society, the truth of political back and forth must be adjudicated in the ‘marketplace of ideas,’” the decision stated.
“Notwithstanding all of this, the Court’s prior analysis is sound to a degree; when one walks through the elements of a claim for defamation, the required allegations are present here. However, that precise and robotic analysis of each of the factors required for defamation caused the Court to focus only on the trees and ultimately not to see the forest. Here, the forest is the right to free speech under the First Amendment, even false speech, when it applies to politics,” it went on to say.
“While we’re pleased with the outcome, this was a protracted legal battle that was taxing on our resources and should never have happened in a country that enshrines free speech,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of SBA List. “The blatant disregard for the First Amendment and the Constitutional right of people to speak out against the actions of those elected to represent them is unacceptable.”
Since Driehaus filed his suit, SBA List’s arguments have gained widespread support. The ACLU of Ohio, in an amicus brief filed in the case, came to the group's defense, declaring unequivocally, “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.”
SBA List wanted voters to be aware of the Congressman’s words and votes, and where he once stood on the issue saying, “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. 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,” said Dannenfelser.
The Susan B. Anthony List, and its affiliated Political Action Committees, the SBA List Candidate Fund and Women Speak Out PAC, are dedicated to pursuing policies and electing candidates who will reduce and ultimately end abortion. To that end, the SBA List emphasizes the education, promotion, mobilization, and election of pro-life women. The SBA List is a network of more than 365,000 pro-life Americans nationwide.