Tennessee Abortion Advocates File Choose Life Plate Lawsuit

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 8, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Tennessee Abortion Advocates File Choose Life Plate Lawsuit

by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
November 8, 2003

Nashville, TN (LifeNews.com) — Pro-abortion forces have filed suit in Tennessee in an effort to stop the sale of "Choose Life" license plates there.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion operation, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which is involved in pro-abortion litigation, filed the suit on Thursday.

According to WTVF-TV in Nashville, Jeff Teague, president of Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee, claims that, in approving the specialty plates, the state set up a "scheme" that funnels money to groups representing only one side of a political debate.

But Brian Harris, President of Tennessee Right to Life, said, "Tennessee is a pro-life state and it is completely appropriate and legal for the people to express their views in any public forum open to other groups. We will continue to advocate the protection of life and the fair treatment of pro-life Tennesseans in public policy."

The Tennessee legislature approved the "Choose Life" plate in the last session, but the state Senate tabled an amendment that would have created a "Pro-Choice" plate.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, states that "The state of Tennessee has opened a state-created forum to one viewpoint alone in the public controversy over abortion."

The Executive Director of Tennessee ACLU, Hedy Weinberg, said at a news conference, "The state can allow license plates to be used to promote messages, but if they do they can’t select what message they promote," she said in a news conference. "They can’t pick and choose."

Part of the proceeds from the sale of the "Choose Life" plate would benefit New Life Resources, the outreach and counseling arm of Tennessee Right to Life.

Gov. Phil Bredesen allowed the legislation to become law without his signature, but called for a legislative review of the specialty plate program, saying "we are venturing onto a slippery slope by starting to place political messages onto license plates."

The Governor and Safety Commissioner Fred Phillips are defendants in the lawsuit. Currently, Tennessee offers about a hundred specialty plates which tout everything from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to universities.

Meanwhile, Rep. Glen Casada (R-College Grove), the House sponsor of the
license plate bill, said that he found the lawsuit "sad, just sad."

"The ACLU, which claims to be for free speech, is only for that speech they deem worthy," Casada said. "If it’s a phrase like ‘Choose Life,’ which they oppose, they try to silence that message."

In order for production of the "Choose Life" license plate to begin, 1,000 motorists have to commit to buy the plate. It’s not clear yet what the design of the plate will be.

Pro-abortion groups have attempted to prevent "Choose Life" plates from hitting the streets in a number of states, including South Carolina and Louisiana. The Governor of Virginia vetoed a "Choose Life" license plate bill in his state, but the plates are being issued in several other states, including Maryland, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, Tennessee Right to Life is confident the "Choose Life" license plate will be seen on Tennessee roads. "…Our bill is sound and will ultimately withstand challenge…" said Harris.

Tennesseans can download a "Choose Life" plate application at