Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The ACLU Stands Up for Pro-Lifers—Really

by William McGurn

Wall Street Journal
November 9, 2010

It's not every day these columns praise the American Civil Liberties Union. Even less often will you find the ACLU standing up for pro-lifers. That, however, is exactly what's happening in Ohio—and it tells us a great deal about threats to conviction and free speech in modern American politics.

The ACLU Ohio's client here is the Susan B. Anthony List, or SBA List, a political action committee whose top goal is to elect pro-life women of either party to Congress. The group is run by a D.C. friend of mine, Marjorie Dannenfelser. In this year's races, she targeted 20 House Democrats who voted for the health-care bill. Fifteen of these 20 lost their seats, which makes Mrs. Dannenfelser Public Enemy No. 1 in certain circles.

One of these losers is Ohio Rep. Steve Driehaus. During the campaign, the SBA List planned to erect billboards saying, "Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion." Before that could happen, however, Mr. Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC) saying the SBA List wording violated a state campaign law against "false statements."

Enter the ACLU Ohio. Carrie Davis, one of the local ACLU lawyers defending the SBA List, directs me to an amicus curiae brief that minces no words: "The people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, the government should not be the arbiter of true or false speech, and the best answer for bad speech is more speech." (For the record, Ms. Davis, who's been honored as a "Champion of Choice" by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, notes that the ACLU does not believe the health-care law allows federal funding for abortion.)