Arkansas Atty. General Says Choose Life Plates Unconstitutional
by Steven Ertelt
August 29, 2003
Little Rock, AR (LifeNews.com) — The state Attorney General in Arkansas issued an opinion Thursday saying the Choose Life license plates issued there are unconstitutional. However, that won’t stop the state’s pro-life organization from pressing ahead with sales of the plate.
The opinion released by Mike Beebe’s office says a court would likely find that the plates violate the rights to free speech, equal protection and due process.
Beebe believes that the Choose Life plates would be an expression of private speech but, because the plates were authorized by the state legislature, that they violate the right of free speech by "viewpoint discrimination." The ruling may jeopardize the entire plate system because it says plates are given only to groups that the legislature approves.
State Rep. Buddy Blair, D-Fort Smith, requested the opinion. It was researched and written by Assistant Attorney General Jack Druff. Blair was one of only 19 members of the state House to vote against passage of the bill to create the plates.
"The legislature’s appropriate role with respect to the issuance of such plates is to set forth standards for their issuance, leaving it to administrative agencies to adopt conforming regulations and to apply those standards in particularly instances," Druff wrote.
Like similar plates in seven other states, the money raised from their purchase goes towards helping women considering abortion find alternatives, such as adoption.
Arkansas Right to Life supported the bill creating the Choose Life plates and had to front $6,000 to produce the first 1,000.
The plates cost $35, of which $25 goes to Arkansas Right to Life for distribution to adoption agencies. The attorney general did agree that the provision to allow distribution of funds through the pro-life group is constitutional.
Rose Mimms, the executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, said the plates would be available starting today in Little Rock and next week in other motor vehicle offices around the state. Mimms said 1,200 plates have been produced
Responding to the opinion, Mimms said the plates don’t discriminate against those who back abortion.
"If the pro-abortion people want to have their own plate, they can go through the same situation we did," Mimms said.
Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said pro-abortion attorneys will look at the opinion as they consider whether to take the plates to court as they have in other states.
Related web sites:
Arkansas Right to Life – https://www.artl.org