There’s a lot of buzz around the blogosphere about a lawsuit playing out in Ohio. Former Congressman Steve Dreihaus, who lost his bid for re-election in 2010, is suing the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life activist group, for their activities that he says played a role in his defeat.
A brief aside: first up, this discussion is about how the abortion issue is playing out, not on the debate itself. I intend to be utterly neutral on the core issue here. Further, I will refer to each side by the terms they have chosen for themselves. This article is purely about the ramifications of this lawsuit, not for arguing the bigger issue of abortion.
The crux of Dreihaus’ argument is a series of billboard signs put up by the SBAL that said that the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) authorized federal funding of abortions, and Dreihaus’ vote in favor of it was to have the federal government pay for abortions. Dreihaus then filed a complaint with Ohio’s Election Commission, which ruled that the statement was probably false, and ordered the billboard taken down. The SBAL took down the billboard, but appealed the decision and continued the charge in radio ads and flyers. Dreihaus lost, and is suing the SBA for defamation — with his damage claim being his loss of the election and his position.
There are a lot of interesting arguments flying around about this case, and there are a lot of interesting arguments to be had. Does the First Amendment cover what the SBAL said and did? Does arguing over the ramifications of a law yet to come fully into effect constitute actionable speech? Does a congressman have a “right” to hold his office, and can he claim damages from losing an election? Can future politicians silence critics over these matters?
But there’s one aspect that I haven’t seen kicked around, and it’s one that I thought of first and think is the most interesting. Could the SBA have welcomed this lawsuit, even though it could threaten their very existence?
Say what you want about activists on both sides of the abortion issue — they are almost all True Believers. They are absolutely resolute on their main issue — abortion — and will not compromise on that for any other goal. They have no secret agenda, no higher purpose, no covert goal above and beyond abortion — outlawing it or keeping it legal. That’s their end game, and they will not compromise on that point.
So, here is how it plays out to me. The SBAL says, repeatedly, that ObamaCare provides for federal funding for abortions. Ex-representative Dreihaus says it doesn’t, that SBAL knows it doesn’t, and they deliberately and maliciously lied about it to defeat him because he’s pro-choice — and should have to pay for his loss of office and income.
I find myself wondering — is there a real downside in this lawsuit for the SBAL?
Think about it. If the SBAL wins, then they are exonerated and not only free to continue to act, but essentially granted permission to repeat the same tactics they used to help defeat Dreihaus.
But if they lose, they will — at best — have to pay a healthy penalty. If the penalty is high enough, it might even force them out of existence. Dreihaus might not get his money, but he will get his revenge, as the group he blames most for his defeat will be destroyed.
But there will be a court ruling that states, unequivocally, that ObamaCare does not cover federal funding for abortions.
That would be a huge victory for the pro-life crowd, and a huge defeat for the pro-choice crowd, for whom federal funding for abortions is a major goal of theirs.
In that context, the SBAL would be scoring a huge victory for their cause if they lost. And remember, these people are true believers — I suspect they would welcome the price of losing the lawsuit, even if it means their own dissolution. They’d be hailed as heroes, because they put a huge dent in the push for federal funding of abortions.
Dreihaus is mad about losing his seat, and that’s certainly understandable. But his revenge just might end up doing far more harm to the pro-choice cause than he could ever have imagined.