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Ohio District Court Rejects Anti-Abortion Group’s Lawsuit Against Elections Law

A district court Judge in Ohio yesterday rejected a lawsuit from the Susan B. Anthony List, which argued an Ohio elections law prohibiting false claims was unconstitutional because it violated the group’s right to free speech.

The suit relates to a longstanding conflict between pro-life groups like SBA List and pro-life Democrats over the legislators’ votes for federal health care reform, which the groups stubbornly maintain, against the opinion of most experts, will pour new federal funding into coverage for abortion. When Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) challenged the group’s plans to erect a billboard alleging he voted for taxpayer-funded abortion, the case went before the state election commission, and the owner of the billboards refused to post the ads for fear of becoming entangled in the case.

As a result, SBA List filed suit last week claiming the Ohio law was unconstitutional because the government is unjustly empowering itself to determine truth and falsehood in elections. In the end, Judge Timothy Black did not address the constitutional merits of the case, arguing instead that that SBA List did not face irreparable harm from the commission’s execution of its statutory duty to determine whether a political advertisement violates Ohio’s law. It was the private billboard company, not the commission, after all, that ultimately decided not to run the advertisements.

That said, the case will likely stay alive long after the elections are over. SBA list president Marjorie Dannenfelser immediately signaled her intention to appeal the ruling, arguing that the Ohio law “effectively gives a state agency the ability to police free speech.”

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