The Corner

The Protect Life Act and the First Amendment

I’ve been watching on C-SPAN the two sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives debate over the Protect Life Act. One thing is perfectly clear: There are two completely different narratives, two completely different sets of facts out there about federal abortion funding.

As this debate continues in Washington, the Susan B. Anthony List is waiting from word from Ohio on whether they can appeal a judge’s denial of their request for a summary judgment in the defamation case a former congressman has against them.

As you might recall, Democrat Steve Driehaus lost his House seat and proceeded to sue the pro-life group for “loss of livelihood” for running a billboard indicating that he had voted for taxpayer-funded abortions when he voted for the president’s health-care legislation. He considers the billboard a malicious lie.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010, and on October 13, 2011, we are still debating what was in it. That Driehaus’s lawsuit is absurd at best couldn’t be clearer — unless you believe the majority in the House are telling malicious lies today. Of course, the minority may believe that. But that’s politics, not a lawsuit.

Former speaker Nancy Pelosi talked on the House floor today about a hypothetical pregnant woman who won’t receive life-saving health care because of the Protect Life Act (which does what the president has long claimed his health-care legislation and executive order do, even though Pennsylvania and other states don’t seem to see it that way). “If ever there were a reckless disregard for the facts, that would be it. They use this non-existent extreme to undermine a 70 percent position about conscience and funding,” responds Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. 

Reflecting on the lawsuit, watching the debate today “was like being in a different universe,” Dannenfelser tells me. “These aren’t malicious people arguing for the Protect Life Act,” she says. “At minimum, this is an honest disagreement.” 

It’s a disagreement, continuing to be hashed out in a representative democracy. And yet, the Susan B. Anthony list could owe a former congressman money because they dared to disagree with him and share their view with people in his congressional district. That’s an abuse of the justice system and sore-loser politics.  

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