.- A federal judge ruled Oct. 26 that Rep. Steve Driehausâ complaint against the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) may proceed. The congressman has asked the Ohio Elections Commission to decide whether the pro-life groupâs ad charge that he voted for abortion funding was an illegal false statement.
Driehausâ campaign plans to depose SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, executive director Emily Buchanan, and former U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, a spokeswoman for the group. His campaign has asked for thousands of documents, including e-mails discussing the billboards, in part to evaluate whether the group believes its argument, Politico.com reports.
Making false statements in political campaigns is a violation of Ohio criminal law.
The SBA List had planned to run billboards reading âShame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion.â
According to the SBA List, Rep. Driehausâ attorney convinced Lamar Companies not to put up the billboards in order to avoid being added to the complaint. The pro-life group has announced a $50,000 radio ad buy in Rep. Driehausâ district.
Kristen Day of Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) characterized the SBA Listâs petition as a request âto allow them to make false statementsâ saying that Rep. Driehausâ vote for the health care legislation was a vote for taxpayer-funded abortion.
âAll records, including any coordinated communication with the Republican National Committee, will have to be turned over to lawyers for Congressman Steve Driehaus,â read a DFLA press release Day sent to CNA.
âThis is an historic first step to stop the mudslinging and lies that have come to dominate American politics,â Day continued, saying âthere is no federal funding for abortion in the health care bill.â
The DFLA also criticized the SBA List for targeting Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Penn.). The group said a similar campaign by Americans United for Life (AUL) uses âmisinformation.â
SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser responded to the judgeâs decision, saying âNothing in today's ruling changes the fact that Rep. Steve Driehaus voted for a health care bill that provides for taxpayer funding of abortion.
âSteve Driehaus does not want his constituents to hear that he voted for a bill that provides for tax dollars to pay for abortions, but the fact that he did is a position held by the National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ohio Right to Life and numerous other organizations and policy experts,â she stated. âWe will pursue this case to the end and are confident the truth will prevail.â
Dannenfelser voiced agreement with the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union (Ohio ACLU) that the law gives a state agency the ability to police free speech.
Speaking to CNA last week, she said the legal case is one where âa backroom deal could completely wipe out an organization.â
In her view, the charges against the SBA List could lead to a costly and âhighly invasiveâ legal discovery process in which every paper the organization has generated, including private strategy papers, must be provided to the court.
In an Aug. 20 letter to U.S. Representatives encouraging legislation to make permanent federal restrictions on abortion funding, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo wrote that the health care legislation funds health plans that cover abortions and force citizens enrolled in many plans to fund othersâ abortions through their health premiums.
According to the cardinal, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishopsâ (USCCB) Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, other possible abortion funding in the bill is dependent upon a decision by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, while still more funds could go to abortions in Community Health Centers if court precedent is upheld.
Last week Dannenfelser told CNA that President Obamaâs executive order limiting abortion funding will not hold up in the court of law when it is appealed by abortion-supporting organizations.
âThey see it as health care. They will sue, but they certainly wonât sue before the election,â she explained.
The SBA List head also suggested that many pro-life Democrats who voted for the legislation initially supported stronger funding restrictions because they believed that the health care legislation funded abortions.
Asked to respond to the claim that past support for such restrictions reflected a belief the bill funded abortion, Day told CNA, âThe fact that we wanted to make the bill stronger does not logically imply that the bill allowed taxpayer funded abortions.â