Is the Susan B. Anthony List going to court to protect their power to lie? That’s the impression you’d get from RH Reality Check’s senior legal analyst, Jessica Pieklo, who writes that pro-life groups like SBA List “are hoping to do to political speech what they did to political spending—upend it altogether”:
As reported in The Hill, the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) plans to ask the Supreme Court to review an Ohio law that prohibits false political speech. The “false statements” law prohibits false attacks on political candidates, including untruthful and inaccurate representations of their voting records. Ohio’s false statements law was used to block the group from putting up billboards accusing then-Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH) of voting for taxpayer funding of abortion because he supported the Affordable Care Act. Taxpayer funding of abortion is prohibited by federal law.
The SBA List argues the law’s prohibition on lying or presenting misrepresentations in political ads is an unconstitutional limit on the group’s political free-speech rights. “The Ohio Election Commission statute demonstrates complete disregard for the constitutional right of people to criticize their elected officials,” SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.
Defenders of the law assert there is no constitutional right to mislead the public and that the law serves an important public good in helping to maintain clean and fair elections.
The only liar here is Pieklo, whose headline, “Susan B. Anthony List Petitions Supreme Court for Right to Lie in Political Ads,” and characterization of the story leave the unmistakable impression that there’s not even a question that the billboard (pictured above) is untrue, and that in arguing against a “prohibition on lying,” SBA List doesn’t even deny it.
Of course, SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser contends that the billboard is truthful – that ObamaCare does indeed fund abortion. And the facts are on her side. While the massive health care law hides it through a convoluted system of shuffling the accounting around, its language allows for multiple ways to put federal dollars toward killing babies. Further, Dannenfelser “told CNA that President Obama’s executive order limiting abortion funding will not hold up in the court of law when it is appealed by abortion-supporting organizations.”
It’s not a “lie” to disbelieve a political promise; it’s a question of competing interpretations, and the perfect example of why giving government the power to define true and false political speech – what facts are “officially” recognized, what beliefs and arguments are “legally” valid – would be so dangerous. Such laws practically beg to be weaponized for partisan censorship.
If Driehaus believed that the critique was deceptive, let him publicly respond and let the voters decide, just as pro-lifers have to do with the countless lies pro-abortion politicians and activists hurl our way. That’s how democracy works: by fighting bad speech with good speech.
Even the left-wing ACLU of Ohio sided with SBA List, filing an amicus brief supporting their suit:
The prohibition on political speech in RC 3517.21(B), and the procedure by which the Ohio Elections Commission judges the truth or falsity of political speech, are unconstitutional. The statute is vague and overbroad, because it prohibits political speech protected by the First Amendment.
Shouldn’t this be blindingly obvious to any “senior legal analyst” and law professor worth so much as a day of her legal education?
So in the world according to defenders of killing babies, you don’t have the right to be born, you don’t have the right to vote on abortion, you don’t have the right to decide what your money does and doesn’t go to, and now you don’t even have the right to voice unapproved views of major political issues pertaining to baby-killing. Scratch a “choice” advocate, find a fascist.
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