Supreme Court: Anti-abortion Group Can Challenge Election Law

Monday, 16 Jun 2014 02:42 PM

By Lisa Degnen

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The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that an anti-abortion group could challenge an Ohio election law aimed at banning lies in political campaigns.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that in April a group called the Susan B. Anthony List told the Supreme Court that a law allowing voters to file complaints about statements they deem untrue during a campaign is unconstitutional and prohibits their free speech.

"The threatened proceedings are of particular concern because of the burden they impose on electoral speech," Justice Clarence Thomas said, according to the report. "Moreover, the target of a complaint may be forced to divert significant time and resources to hire legal counsel and respond to discovery requests in the crucial days before an election."

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The newspaper says the case was in reaction over ads the group placed against former Democratic Congressman Steve Driehaus because he backed Obamacare and voted for "taxpayer-funded abortion."

Driehaus said the exchanges would not use tax dollars to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother's life. He later dropped the complaint, the report says, but the Susan B. Anthony List decided to challenge the law on free speech grounds anyway.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a separate legal brief to express his view that the law chills free speech, the Plain Dealer reported. More than a dozen other states have similar laws.

"Today's decision by the court is a step toward victory for freedom of speech and the broad coalition of groups who have supported SBA List throughout this case," SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said. "The truth or falsity of political speech should be judged by voters, not government bureaucrats."

She also said her group will make the same claim against other members of Congress who backed Obamacare.

DeWine told the paper that was the right decision by the justices because the law could force an "average citizen" who put something on the Internet to hire attorneys to defend themselves if another citizen disagrees.

Both liberal and conservative groups have criticized the law, saying it has "a chilling effect on political speech," according to Fox News.

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