The Supreme Court on Monday sided with an anti-abortion group, opening the door for a broad challenge against the government’s right to police falsehoods in political advertising.
A unanimous Supreme Court agreed that Susan B. Anthony List had standing to sue over an Ohio false statements law, reversing two lower court decisions that the group could not bring a lawsuit because it had not suffered any injury.
“Denying prompt judicial review would impose a substantial hardship on petitioners, forcing them to choose between refraining from core political speech on the one hand, or engaging in that speech and risking costly Commission proceedings and criminal prosecution on the other,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the decision.
The case arose in Ohio in 2010, when SBA List sought to run a billboard against Ohio Democrat Steve Driehaus, who was then a member of Congress. The billboard accusing Driehaus of voting for taxpayer-funds abortion by supporting the Affordable Care Act.
Driehaus complained to Ohio election regulators, alleging the billboard would have violated the Ohio False Statement Law.
That law makes it illegal to “post, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard for whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate.”