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Susan B. Anthony List Political Speech Case Reaches Supreme Court

Susan B. Anthony List Political Speech Case Reaches Supreme Court

January 13, 2014 — The Supreme Court on Friday announced it will hear a case involving a dispute between an antiabortion-rights group and a former lawmaker over an Ohio law that bars false statements in political ads, Politico's "Under the Radar" reports (Tau, "Under the Radar," Politico, 1/10).

Case Background

The Ohio law prohibits groups from making false statements about political candidates. In August, the antiabortion-rights group Susan. B. Anthony List asked the Supreme Court to review the law, which was invoked by former Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) to block SBA from erecting billboards that accused him of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions because he voted for the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). Driehaus said the group's claim was false because federal law already prohibits the use of public funding for most abortions.

According to SBA List, the Ohio law violates its First Amendment right to free speech. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the group's attempt to challenge the statute on those grounds (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/12/13).

Court Announcement

The court will not address whether the Ohio law is constitutional; rather, the justices will determine whether SBA has legal grounds to challenge the law (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/11).

The justices did not comment on the case and will schedule oral arguments for later this year (Shesgreen, USA Today, 1/10). The case could be heard as early as April, with a decision by the end of the court's term in June ("Under the Radar," Politico, 1/10).

Reactions

In a statement on Friday, SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said, "We are thrilled at the opportunity to have our arguments heard at the Supreme Court," adding, "The Ohio Election Commission statute demonstrates complete disregard for the constitutional right of citizens to criticize their elected officials" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/11).

Neither Driehaus nor the Ohio Elections Commission could be reached for comment on Friday, USA Today reports (USA Today, 1/10).

High-Profile Issues at Play

According to "Healthwatch," the case could draw wide-ranging attention because it touches on issues involving the ACA, abortion rights and advertising during elections ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/11).

Chris Finney -- cofounder of COAST, an anti-tax group that also has challenged the Ohio law -- said, "We think it's an extremely important case. We're very excited the Supreme Court has recognized that it's worthy of their attention" (USA Today, 1/10).