Whether “Big Brother” government bureaucrats have the right to determine what is “truth” will be the focal point of a U.S. Supreme Court hearing Tuesday.
The Susan B. Anthony List is fighting to overturn an Ohio election regulation that allows state bureaucrats to censor statements on election-campaign billboards if they believe they are false.
The case originated in 2010 when SBA List tried to put up billboards to educate the constituents of then-U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Ohio, about his vote in support of taxpayer-funded abortion under Obamacare.
Driehaus was one of the key votes for the controversial health insurance law. He had been holding out because he didn’t want to support abortion funding but eventually was convinced to support the bill.
He said he didn’t believe Obamacare allowed funding for abortion, although there are several ways in which such funding now is evident.
SBA List wanted to publicize his support for abortion funding but was stopped by the Ohio law. SBA List was also threatened with prosecution if it engaged in similar speech about Driehaus or other candidates in Ohio.
SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser noted Driehaus initially opposed Obamacare because he said it did not contain specific language preventing the funding of abortion.
“That never changed and to this very day, Americans are still fighting the expansion of taxpayer funding of abortion brought about by the overhaul,” Dannenfelser said.
However, Ohio bureaucrats, citing a law that “criminalizes ‘false’ political speech” and leaves it to bureaucrats to judge, ordered that the billboards could not go up.
Dannenfelser said: “We are thrilled at the opportunity to have our arguments heard at the Supreme Court and hope that not only will SBA List’s First Amendment rights be affirmed, but those of all Americans.”
Lower courts decided the law criminalizing that billboard speech could not be challenged under the First Amendment.
“The Ohio Election Commission statute demonstrates complete disregard for the constitutional right of citizens to criticize their elected officials,” Dannenfelser said.
The organization last summer asked the high court for review, explaining: “In this case, application of the Sixth Circuit’s restrictive rulings has assured perpetuation of a blatantly unlawful regime under which bureaucrats are the supreme fact-checkers for every political campaign – a regime that has, predictably, been routinely abused and will continue to be, absent this court’s intervention.”
It was only a year ago that SBA List won its other battle with Driehaus. He had filed a defamation lawsuit alleging SBA List cost him his job and a “loss of livelihood” when the district court held that SBA List’s statements about Driehaus’ vote on Obamacare were not defamatory.
There has been widespread support for SBA List’s concern, including from the ACLU of Ohio, which said: “The people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, the government should not be the arbiter of true or false speech and, in any event, the best answer for bad speech is more speech.”
Since its adoption by only Democrats in Congress, there have been half a dozen bills introduced to address various issues concerning the funding of abortion under Obamacare.
“Research both from the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that millions of women will gain elective abortion coverage under Obamacare through the affordability subsidies and the Medicaid expansion. CLI estimates that up to 111,500 additional abortions per year will be heavily subsidized by taxpayers,” SBA List explained.
The organization said Obamacare provides provides refundable “affordability” credits that subsidize policies that cover elective abortion. There also is an abortion surcharge embedded in the law.
“Under the scheme, plans will charge enrollees, regardless of age and gender, a minimum of $1 per month – an ‘abortion surcharge.’ Under HHS rules the existence of the ‘abortion surcharge’ only needs to be disclosed once – in the fine print – during the enrollment process. This surcharge is included without itemization in the monthly premium, and is never disclosed again,” SBA explained.
Further, there is the “preventive services mandate,” which grants the Department of Health & Human Services “the right to define ‘preventive services” that must be available cost-free (no copay, no deductible, etc.) to the insured. Under this mandate, the department has required plans to include abortion-inducing drugs with only the narrowest of exemptions,” SBA List said.
WND reported this week that SBA List, rather than being intimidated by the speech challenge case, already has taken its billboard campaigns to voters in at least three more largely conservative-leaning states.
The message is that the senators, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, supported funding abortions through their Obamacare votes.
The Democrat lawmakers are facing high hurdles in their re-election campaigns in states where abortion funding is a concern of voters. Already, in this election year, Democrats are hindered by a stagnant economy, massive new taxes, a failed foreign policy and scandals linked to the White House that could cost them control of the Senate.
SBA List said it is highlighting through the billboards the Democrats’ support of “taxpayer funded abortion by voting for the Affordable Care Act.”
“The law, known as Obamacare, provides new federal tax subsidies that will finance elective abortion coverage for millions of women, 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,” SBA List said.