Arkansas Choose Life Plates Face Lawsuit

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 13, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Arkansas Choose Life Plates Face Lawsuit

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 13, 2003

Little Rock, AR ( — An Arkansas woman has filed suit against the state’s recently approved Choose Life license plates. She claims that the plates are a violation of her constitutional right to free speech because there is not a plate that expresses support for abortion.

Tamara Brackett is suing in federal court to overturn the approval of the plates. Brackett’s attorney, Doug Norwood claims the case is about free speech rather than abortion.

"The state of Arkansas has opened a state-created forum to one viewpoint alone in the ongoing public controversy over abortion," Brackett’s suit says.

Though Brackett can’t purchase a plate that backs abortion, she is free to either place pro-abortion bumper stickers on her car or purchase a vanity plate with a pro-abortion slogan.

Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, told she wasn’t surprised by the lawsuit.

"It is clear that her aim is to stop the Choose Life plate," Mimms explained. "The Choose Life plate was established to promote adoption and to assist women and children in the adoption process. It is hard to believe that anyone could be against adoption and providing money to women who choose life."

"This lawsuit [also] challenges all vanity plates, so there will be a lot of unhappy people in Arkansas if it is successful," Mimms added.

The Choose Life plates went on sale in August and, according to numbers from the state, as of October 31, 446 had been sold.

Norwood said he encouraged Brackett to file the lawsuit and told her to go to a motor vehicle office and a request a pro-abortion plate — knowing one didn’t exist. That would give her standing in court, he said.

The lawsuit also challenges the state’s policy and practice of issuing vanity and specialty license plates. That was also done in Louisiana by abortion advocates in an attempt to take Choose Life plates off the road there.

Following the bill, the state Attorney General issued an opinion saying that he believed the it would be declared unconstitutional if challenged in court.

But House Minority Leader Marvin Parks (R), who sponsored the Choose Life plate bill, said the constitutionality of the bill was discussed beforehand. Similar plates have been declared unconstitutional in other states but none of those lower court decisions have stood up on appeal, he said.

Parks also said any group is welcome to attempt to pass a law allowing a plate supporting abortion.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court against Richard Weiss, the director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Related web sites:
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