Truth in Politics

August 03, 2011

During the debate over health care reform the last couple of years, one claim that critics kept making was that the legislation would result in new taxpayer funding of abortions. As I reported for Ethics Daily, even religious leaders made this claim, despite the fact that numerous journalists and independent fact-checking organizations proved it was not true. Now a federal court has weighed in and reiterated the fact that the health care reform law signed last year by President Barack Obama does not allow for new taxpayer funding of abortion. Regardless what one may think about the legislation, it is important to tell the truth. During the midterm elections last November, pro-life Democratic Representative Steve Driehaus of Ohio--who voted for the health care reform--was attacked by a conservative pro-life organization--the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List)--that claimed his vote allowed for more government funding of abortion. Even before the election, the Ohio Elections Commission ruled in his favor that the ads were false (see post here). Now a court concluded in a defamation lawsuit Driehaus filed against SBA List that their claim was false. The ruling proclaimed:

The express language of the PPACA does not provide for tax-payer funded abortion. That is a fact, and it is clear on its face.
The ruling allows the lawsuit against SBA List to continue and is a clear victory for Driehaus, who lost reelection in large part because of the backlash against health care reform. As I argued last year, the efforts by conservative pro-life groups to defeat pro-life Democrats because of support for health care reform hurt the pro-life movement overall. This is particularly problematic since the evidence continues to mount that the main argument used by the conservative groups was false. SBA List's statement in response to the ruling is itself quite troubling. Here is what a group's counsel said in the statement:
The SBA List's speech was true, or at the very least it was its protected opinion about the meaning of Obamacare.
So now even SBA List leaders are acknowledging that their claim might not have been true. They are instead arguing that they should be allowed to say it regardless of if it is true. Although that argument might help them legally--even though it should not--such an attitude means they should be rejected by any who cares about the truth. It is time to reject candidates and groups of all political persuasions who care more about winning elections than being truthful.