January 30, 2013
Pro-Life Democrat Loses Defamation Battle with Susan B. Anthony List
Court: People have First Amendment right to "even false speech, when it applies to politics.”
A federal court has ruled against a former pro-life congressman, Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), who sued the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List (SBAL) for defamation that allegedly contributed to his election defeat in 2010.
Driehaus, a pro-life Democrat, sued SBAL over an ad campaign that he said cost him his job and a "loss of livelihood." The ad targeted Dreihaus's vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); SBAL equates support for the act with support for taxpayer-funded abortions. "Shame on Steve Dreihaus," read the ad. "Dreihaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion."
Dreihaus, part of a group of Democrats that supported a ban on taxpayer funding of abortion yet—when this provision failed to pass—still voted in favor of the final health care reform bill, argued that, given his pro-life beliefs, the ad amounted to defamation.
But district judge Timothy Black recently ruled to dismiss the case. According to Fox News, Black's ruling stated that "associating a political candidate 'with a mainstream political position, even if false, cannot constitute defamation.'"
Black also wrote that "in the area of political campaigns, where the 'principles of free speech and truth collide most violently,' truth must be determined in the 'marketplace of ideas'—not [in] the courts."