High court to hear Susan B. Anthony List case

The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear a free speech case involving a prominent abortion-rights group and its effort to discredit a candidate over ObamaCare four years ago.

The Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, which works to elect politicians who oppose abortion rights, argues that an Ohio statute penalizing false political speech prevented it from launching certain ads against then-Rep. Steven Driehaus (D-Ohio) in 2010.

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In a statement, the group cheered the court's move to hear its case and said that the Ohio law chills legitimate political debate.

"We are thrilled at the opportunity to have our arguments heard at the Supreme Court," said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. "The Ohio Election Commission statute demonstrates complete disregard for the constitutional right of citizens to criticize their elected officials."
 
The case is sure to draw attention this spring since it touches on three of the most volatile issues in politics: ObamaCare, abortion and election-season advertising.

The conflict began during the 2010 election cycle when Driehaus, identified as a "pro-life Democrat," filed a complaint against the SBA List for a proposed billboard campaign hammering him for supporting ObamaCare.

The specific language of the ads would have accused Driehaus of voting for "taxpayer-funded abortion" by backing the healthcare law, a charge Driehaus said was false under a statute barring lies in some political speech.

Federal law prohibits public funding for abortion, and ObamaCare requires insurers to segregate funds for abortion coverage under a special set of rules.

While the case never received a ruling from the Ohio Election Commission, it prompted the SBA List to filed suit against the state statute on First Amendment grounds.

The group denies that its claim against Driehaus was false, but it argues that the Ohio law deterred them from moving forward with the billboard campaign.

"Driehaus was originally opposed to the Affordable Care Act because it did not contain specific language preventing the funding of abortion. That never changed," Dannenfelser said.

"After Driehaus and other naïve ‘pro-life’ Democrats caved, SBA List sought to inform constituents of their votes for taxpayer funding of abortion."

The Supreme Court will not decide on the constitutionality of the Ohio statute, but rather, whether the SBA List has grounds to bring its case.

Arguments will happen this spring, with a decision coming by the end of June.