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Susan B. Anthony List Petitions Supreme Court for Right to Lie in Political Ads

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The anti-choice group wants the Supreme Court to strike an Ohio law that prevents lying in political ads, claiming it's a violation of the group's political speech rights.

In preparation for the upcoming midterm and 2016 presidential elections, anti-choice groups are hoping to do to political speech what they did to political spending—upend it altogether.

As reported in The Hill, the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) plans to ask the Supreme Court to review an Ohio law that prohibits false political speech. The “false statements” law prohibits false attacks on political candidates, including untruthful and inaccurate representations of their voting records. Ohio’s false statements law was used to block the group from putting up billboards accusing then-Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH) of voting for taxpayer funding of abortion because he supported the Affordable Care Act. Taxpayer funding of abortion is prohibited by federal law.

The SBA List argues the law’s prohibition on lying or presenting misrepresentations in political ads is an unconstitutional limit on the group’s political free-speech rights. “The Ohio Election Commission statute demonstrates complete disregard for the constitutional right of people to criticize their elected officials,” SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.

Defenders of the law assert there is no constitutional right to mislead the public and that the law serves an important public good in helping to maintain clean and fair elections.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected the SBA List’s attempt to challenge the Ohio law on First Amendment grounds. The SBA List is asking the Supreme Court to revisit that decision, but there’s no indication yet the court will do so.

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