6th Circuit: SBA List Did Not Make False Statements about Abortion Funding in Obamacare

Mallory Quigley, [email protected], 202-223-8073

Court Unanimously Affirms Dismissal of Ex-Congressman’s Defamation case

WASHINGTON, DC – This morning the U.S. Sixth Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of former Congressman Steve Driehaus’ (D-Ohio) defamation case against the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List). The case stems back to 2010 when SBA List attempted to erect billboards to expose Driehaus’ support for taxpayer funded abortion by voting for the Affordable Care Act. SBA List was prevented from doing so and was threatened with prosecution under Ohio’s “false statement” law, if it engaged in similar speech about Driehaus or other candidates in Ohio. When Driehaus lost his reelection campaign, he sued the SBA List for defamation and loss of livelihood.

The court rejected the former congressman’s complaint, for failing to satisfy the first and most basic element of a defamation claim:  that the statement is false. The three-judge panel unanimously agreed that SBA List had not made a false statement when it said that Obamacare includes abortion funding.

The court wrote:

“Moreover, given the debate prior to passage of the PPACA as to whether it includes taxpayer funding for abortion, the gist or sting of the statements appears to have at least some truth, to be substantially true, or to be subject to differing interpretations. Driehaus vocally opposed the PPACA because of his concerns about federal funding for abortions but he then voted for it anyway despite the absence of his desired language (the Stupak-Pitts Amendment) in the final version. The Executive Order adds language, but is not part of the PPACA and does not alter the statutory text. In fact, debate continues over the meaning and effect of the PPACA…For SBA List to overcome Driehaus’s defamation claim, it is enough that the statements had some truth, were substantially true, or were subject to differing interpretations. Driehaus’s own change of position demonstrates that they were.”

“Last year the U.S. Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit affirmed our right to free speech and today the Sixth Circuit confirmed the substance of that speech. Everything we have argued and continue to argue is true. Our goal from the beginning has been to educate Ohio voters about the multiple abortion-funding provisions in Obamacare and expose those elected officials who voted for it,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List.  “The reality of abortion-funding in Obamacare will persist as an issue in future election cycles and the SBA List will be there to speak the truth.”

The Affordable Care Act provides new federal tax subsidies that will finance elective abortion coverage for millions of women who did not have such insurance, expands state Medicaid program coverage of elective abortion for millions of women in dozens of states, and uses federal funds to finance elective abortion coverage for members of Congress and their staff.

Last year, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the SBA List had standing to challenge Ohio’s false statement statute, the district court handed the SBA List another victory in its related case against the unconstitutional Ohio law. The state of Ohio has appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit.

The Susan B. Anthony List and its Political Action Committees, the SBA List Candidate Fund and Women Speak Out PAC, spent $15.25 million in the 2014 election cycle to defeat pro-abortion incumbents and elect pro-life candidates to federal and statewide office. The SBA List is dedicated to pursuing policies and electing candidates who will reduce and ultimately end abortion. To that end, the SBA List emphasizes the education, promotion, mobilization, and election of pro-life women.  The SBA List is a network of more than 365,000 pro-life Americans nationwide.




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