Judge Again Blocks Louisiana Choose Life License Plates
by Steven Ertelt
July 9, 2003
Baton Rouge, LA (LifeNews.com) — A federal judge ruled Louisiana’s system for issuing specialty license plates is unconstitutional because it allows for a Choose Life plate that he claims violates the free speech rights of abortion advocates.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval said the Choose Life plates do not offer both points of view on the abortion debate.
"If the state built a convention hall for speech and then only allowed people to speak with whom they agreed with their message, the state’s actions would be in contravention of the First Amendment,” Duval wrote. "There is no significant difference in the case before the court.”
The state argued that the law allowing specialty plates was a state right and didn’t violate the First Amendment. Louisiana has about 150 specialty license plates that raise $25 per plate for numerous charities.
The plates have raised approximately $20,000 thus far and the proceeds will be distributed during the middle of August to groups that help women in crisis pregnancies. Organizations that perform or promote abortions are not eligible for funding.
Attorney General Richard Ieyoub said the state will appeal and he hopes the plates can continue to be sold so no money is lost while the appeal moves forward.
Duval also blocked sale of the Choose Life plates in 2000. However, the plates went on sale following a decision by 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturning his ruling. The appeals court said the suit would be dismissed unless it challenged the whole plate system.
Having lost the debate on the specific l plates, abortion advocates went ahead and challenged the entire Louisiana plate system.
Kathleen Benfield of the American Family Association of New Orleans, told LifeNews.com, "this lawsuit demonstrates the utter desperation of those who support the killing of unborn children. They feel that they must squelch the message of hope and life that the Choose Life Plate represents and stop the distribution of the funds donated from the plate which will go to assist women who choose life."
Benfield said she hoped other organizations with specialty plates will join in opposition to Duval’s ruling.
Duval’s order allows those who already have Choose Life plates to keep them.