FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 24, 2014
Contact: Mallory Quigley, 202-223-8073
Pro-life Group Petitions SCOTUS to Allow Challenge to Ohio Statute that Chills Free Speech
WASHINGTON, DC –Today the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) filed its Supreme Court brief in the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Steven Driehaus. The national pro-life group petitioned the high court to allow their First Amendment challenge to Ohio’s “false statement” law to proceed on the grounds that the statute criminalizes “false” political speech and empowers a state agency to determine what constitutes true or false political speech. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last month. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 22, 2014.
Since 2010, now former Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH) has sought to use the Ohio statute against the SBA List. The group attempted to erect billboards in his district during the 2010 election cycle to educate constituents about his vote in support of taxpayer funding abortion by voting for the Affordable Care Act but was prevented from doing so because of the Ohio law. The SBA List was also threatened with prosecution if it engaged in similar speech about Driehaus or other candidates. Nevertheless, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the SBA List could not challenge the Ohio law under the First Amendment.
The brief, in part, states: “In this case, the Sixth Circuit’s restrictive rulings have assured perpetuation of a blatantly unlawful regime under which bureaucrats are the supreme fact-checkers for every political campaign—a regime that has, predictably, been routinely abused. All that political opponents need do, as they have routinely done in Ohio, is complain about controversial speech and obtain politically valuable “probable cause” findings before the election, and then drop the complaints after the election, once the damage has been done and the speech can no longer influence electoral decisions. The statute is thereby shielded from any judicial review—and will continue to be, absent correction by this Court.”
“Our founders braved the threat of the gallows so that we would not have to fear speaking our true convictions. What is a chill of speech? In a word it is fear – fear that speech may land one in jail or subject the speaker to ruinous fines,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of Susan B. Anthony List. “As a wife and mother of five I can tell you that the fear of imprisonment and crippling fines has been real.
“We hope to see our First Amendment rights affirmed by the Court so that, headed into the 2014 senate elections, we may expose the truth about Obamacare and those who support it,” Dannenfelser concluded.
In January 2013, the SBA List won its related two year court battle with Driehaus, who had also filed a defamation suit alleging that SBA List cost him his job and a “loss of livelihood,” when the district court held that SBA List’s statements about Driehaus’ vote in favor of Obamacare were not defamatory. Driehaus filed an appeal from the dismissal in February, which remains pending.
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, “The people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, the government should not be the arbiter of true or false speech and, in any event, the best answer for bad speech is more speech.”
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.