The national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List is being sued by Ohio Congressman Steve Driehaus, one of the unofficial ”Stupak coalition” of Democrats who folded at the eleventh hour and voted for Obama and Speaker Pelosi’s flawed healthcare bill.
(Full disclosure: the President of the American Principles Project, where I work, also works with the Susan B. Anthony List. I am also friends with many folks at SBA.)
Driehaus’ complaint was prompted by SBA’s intention to purchase billboards (like the one pictured above) in his district. These billboards have not even seen the light of day because of this pending lawsuit. The National Right to Life has issued a 23-page affidavit on behalf of SBA, defending the foundation for the claims they make in the billboards.
At issue, critically I think, is that Dreihaus is trying to argue that the President’s executive order papers-over his vote for the flawed legislation. The problem is, of course, that Dreihaus wasn’t responsible for the executive order (which I, along with the USCCB, Americans United for Life, Focus on the Family, and other groups agree is worthless).
Dreihaus is responsible for his vote, when he voted for flawed legislation that allowed abortions to be covered. The real-world proof that the legislation covered abortion first appeared in the high-risk pools of Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Maryland. This funding was only cut off by a special intervention. In other words, the legislation did not prevent the abortion funding on its own. Only the watchdog efforts of pro-lifers prevented it.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of SBA, has issued a statement about the most recent round of their legal battle with Dreihaus, after a commission found yesterday that his suit had reasonable standing enough to merit a full hearing (date to be determined).
Why should this concern us in the pro-life movement? Because an elected official has gone to the courts to suppress the free speech of pro-life groups he disagrees with. His suit against SBA list is largely without precedent. It represents an act of desperation by someone who refuses to allow a pro-life group to communicate with the voters of his district. Such actions have a “chilling effect” on other pro-life groups attempting to communicate their message. You can be sure that other groups will be wary of trying to actively engage with voters through public advertising if there is a precedent established here of officials simply suing groups when they don’t like what they are saying.
Of course, the catholyc group “Catholics United” is only too happy to see SBA sued. They’ve jumped into the lawsuit along with “Democrats for Life of America” (a fast-dwindling demographic, sadly) with affidavits in the case. Catholics United is skilled – when it comes to power politics that is. They understand the wide-reaching potential of this case, which will be harmful to other pro-lifers who want to act on their convictions.
Then there’s this bombshell: “If the Commission rules that campaign laws were in fact violated, the SBA List could face criminal prosecution, fines, and even jail time.”
Get that? For taking out an ad that makes a strong claim about this health care bill, a claim that is echoed by numerous pro-life groups representing hundreds of thousands of Americans, a claim echoed by the US Bishops – these pro-lifers could be thrown in jail.
If there is any doubt about the true political purpose of Catholycs United, it should be removed by watching how much time they spend trying to persecute and defame other pro-life organizations, and how little (if any) time they spend actually working on behalf of the threatened unborn themselves.
Let’s pray for the defendants in the Susan B. Anthony case, let’s pray for all those brave enough to fight for the unborn who are willing to risk unjust attacks for the cause. And shame on Catholycs United and Democrats for Life of America for choosing to become party to a case that has the (remote but still possible) chance to send pro-lifers to jail.
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Susan B. Anthony List can be happy about one thing. In my short but intense experience in national politics, it’s a truth I’ve discovered that if no one is attacking you, your efforts aren’t effective. The fact that SBA is coming under such fierce attack is a testament to the effectiveness of their pro-life advocacy on behalf of the unborn. So bravo to them for that!
UPDATE – I think it may be helpful to see the faces behind the Susan B. Anthony List. These are the folks Catholycs United claimed are “deliberately spreading lies for political gain.” Do they look like a nefarious bunch of calculating, election-law-dodging criminals?
(From R-L: Kerry, Lindsay, Mallory, Sarah, Natalie, Emily, Blair, Rebecca.)