Battle over Ohio law that targeted anti-abortion ads heats up

A prominent anti-abortion-rights group is challenging an Ohio law that threatened to shut them down after they ran an allegedly defamatory ad during last year's election.

Former Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) complained last year to the Ohio Elections Commission that the Susan B. Anthony List ran a "false" billboard ad claiming that his vote for healthcare reform was a vote for taxpayer-funded abortion. Driehaus lost his reelection to former Republican congressman Steve Chabot, 45 percent to 52 percent.

On Friday, SBA answered Driehaus's complaint and filed a separate brief in Ohio federal court seeking to overturn the state's "false statement" law. The group says it's buoyed by a recent decision by the Eighth Circuit Court that overturned a similar law in Minnesota.

"The ruling by the Eighth Circuit Court makes clear that any political speech is protected by the First Amendment," SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. "No politician, bureaucracy, or court should have the power to silence the right of citizens to criticize their elected officials. The proper place for public policy debate is in the public square."

The Ohio law threatens fines and even jail time for political ads that are deemed "false." The American Civil Liberties Union joined SBA's fight against Driehaus's complaint.