An Aug. 1 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh carries the alarming opening:
A federal judge who owes his lifetime appointment to Barack Obama today concluded that a pro-life organization whose leaders criticized a politician for supporting Obamacare for funding abortions just might be guilty of defamation – and possibly worthy of jail time.
Of course, the facts are much less alarming -- and they could have consequences for WND's brand of loose-with-the-facts journalism.
The case involves former U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, who lost re-election in 2010 in part, he claims, because of ads by the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List claiming that Driehaus supports "taxpayer funded abortion." Unruh's suggestion that anyone currently faces "jail time" over the incident is false -- that applied only to a criminal complaint Driehaus had originally filed with the Ohio Elections Commission that he has since dropped. The current lawsuit is a civil action with no possibility of jail time.
The central question in Driehaus' lawsuit is whether the Susan B. Anthony List's claim that he voted for "taxpayer funding of abortion" when he voted for the health care reform bill. Dreihaus contends it's false, and the judge (whose appointment background is irrelevant) agreed, writing, ""Whether it is possible … that the PPACA would not prevent taxpayer funded abortion is entirely different from providing for 'taxpayer funded abortion.' The express language of the PPACA does not provide for taxpayer funded abortion." Thus, Driehaus' lawsuit can go forward.
Unruh, of course, is compelled only to report the SBA List's reaction, plus some of his own inadequately documented claims. First he writes:
In fact, the Obama administration confirmed in July 2010, as reported by ABC News, that the president's signature health care legislation funds abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's health is at risk.
Unruh misleads by portraying health care reform as a change from previous federal abortion policy. It is not -- under the Hyde amendment, first approved in 1976, those are the only conditions under which the federal government funds abortions, and health care reform did not alter it.
Unruh then writes:
Further, it now has ruled that all insurance carriers will be required to include coverage of the Plan B "morning-after" pill that can destroy the life of a fertilized egg by preventing the implantation of the developing embryo, Answers in Genesis pointed out.
Noted the prominent organization, "Despite the evidence that Plan B has a secondary mechanism as an abortifacient, the FDA allows Plan B packaging and patient information to claim that it does not cause abortion... The 'truth' of this claim depends on new government-approved definitions."
Of course, Answers in Genesis -- whose goal is "to illustrate the importance of Genesis in building a creation-based worldview, and to equip readers with practical answers so they can confidently communicate the gospel and biblical authority with accuracy and graciousness" -- is not an organization qualified to render a medical judgment on what Plan B does. Oh, and it's not an "abortion pill."
The question remains whether the SBA List's ads rise to the level of "actual malice" required under defamation law. Unruh dutifully reported the SBA List attorney's assertions that it does not because his group "researched Obamacare themselves, and they also read the opinions of other groups that also concluded that Obamacare provided taxpayer funds for abortion services," and that even if the claim is false, it's "protected opinion."
This raises some interesting questions for WND, which has repeatedly published false claims about President Obama and his administration. Given that actual malice toward the president is practically WND's editorial policy, if Driehaus successfully obtains a verdict of defamation against the SBA list, that opens up a path of defamation litigation against WND for its shoddy, malicious journalism.
WND will make any plaintiff drag it out in court, however. Remember, it took seven years for WND to admit that it published falsehoods about an associate of Al Gore.
No wonder WND is alarmed by this case -- it might just be the thing that results in it being held accountable for its malicious lies.