Susan B. Anthony List Challenges Ban on False Abortion Claims

October 19, 2010 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

The Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group that has been waging a long campaign targeting anti-abortion Democrats in the Midwest over their votes in favor of health care reform, has run up against a new roadblock in its efforts: the truth.

When the group tried to erect billboards that state ”Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion,” the Ohio representative complained to the state elections commission last week that it was a “false claim” and therefore illegal under the state’s election law. The commission agreed that the ads probably broke the law and allowed the case to proceed, and the billboard company took the ads down as a result. But SBA List isn’t taking the commission’s decision lying down. The group filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court yesterday arguing that the state election law governing false claims is unconstitutional because it violates the group’s right to free speech. ”SBA List’s speech is chilled because SBA List is unable to post its planned billboards,” the group’s lawsuit states.

SBA List’s speech has undoubtedly been chilled, but the group’s desired speech, in this case, is also undoubtedly false. With two weeks before the election, the group will likely be unable to run its ads, but the courts’ eventual decision will have implications for the the limits of freedom of speech and the determination of what constitutes an acceptable campaign ad.