SCOTUS Hears Case of Anti-Choice Group’s Right to Lie

This morning, the Supreme Court heard a new case that could significantly impact future political campaigns.

Extremist anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List is challenging a longstanding Ohio law that prohibits false statements about candidates.  In 2010, the group had planned to run billboards claiming that then-representative Steve Driehaus supported taxpayer-funded abortion, despite the fact that Driehaus is staunchly anti-choice.  Driehaus filed a petition to prevent the ads, which prompted the owner of the billboards to refuse to display them.

The main issue brought up by the arguments today is whether or not the Ohio law banning false statements is a violation of protected free speech under the First Amendment.  Susan B. Anthony List claims that it is, while Driehaus is arguing that the billboard constituted defamation and that claims made by the group resulted in a loss of his livelihood (Driehaus ultimately lost the election).

About a dozen states other than Ohio also have similar laws, although they vary in degree and level of enforcement. The Ohio law itself has historically not been enforced often.

A ruling on the issue is likely to come down this summer.

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