Tennessee Choose Life License Plates Get Backing From Pro-Life Attorneys

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 24, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Tennessee Choose Life License Plates Get Backing From Pro-Life Attorneys

by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
January 24, 2004

Nashville, TN (LifeNews.com) — Pro-life attorneys have filed a brief responding to the ACLU of Tennessee’s lawsuit to block the "Choose Life" motor vehicle plates from being sold.

The attorneys want the courts to allow New Life Resources, a pregnancy center that receives proceeds from the sale of the plates, to intervene in the suit as the defendant. The ACLU’s suit, which charges that the state discriminated by only offering a pro-life plate, was filed against the state of Tennessee and pro-abortion Governor Gov. Phil Bredesen who had allowed the legislation to become law without his signature.

Attorney Jim Bopp and his associates at the Terre Haute, Indiana firm of Bopp, Coleson and Bostrom, filed the brief along with local attorney Stephen Duggins, to defend New Life Resources.

"[New Life Resources] has a direct and unique financial stake in the constitutionality of the challenged statue and hence the outcome of this litigation," the brief says.¬†"New Life’s particular financial¬†interest is not shared by the State of Tennessee, and it would be substantially impaired if New Life were barred from intervention."

The lawsuit may still be thrown out by the Tennessee Attorney General, as the ACLU and other pro-abortion groups don’t have standing in the suit. They did not file legislation to create a pro-abortion plate and have not shown proof of how the Choose Life plate harms their organizations, says Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life.

"The ACLU and Planned Parenthood essentially claim that governments can’t favor childbirth and adoption over abortion in their educational and social funding programs – that states like Tennessee can’t send a pro-life message without also sending a pro-abortion message on their license plates or anywhere else," said Bopp

Bopp said the U.S. Supreme Court has, several times, upheld the right of governments to pay for childbirth services, but refuse to pay for abortions. "The Constitution no more requires the state to support pro-abortion speech than it requires the state to support abortion itself," Bopp explained.

Harris said the courts should let the plate proceed — especially in light of the record-setting way in which Tennessee Right to Life obtained enough signatures to qualify the plate.

"We’ve met the criteria. Now it’s time to get this plate on the road and proceeds into the hands of agencies which can offer real help and hope to women facing difficult pregnancies," said Harris.

Earlier this month Tennessee Right to Life turned in the signatures of 1,265 people who indicated they will purchase a license plate, when only 1,000 were needed. Plates have been granted to the Nashville Predators, the Memphis Zoo, the National Civil Rights Museum, The Hermitage, and others who were unable to obtain the signatures of 1,000 supporters by the one-year deadline.

Tennessee Right to Life collected enough signatures in only six month.

The Tennessee state legislature approved the plates by votes of 26-4 in the Senate and 80-14 in the House in 2003 and pro-abortion Gov. Phil Bredesen let the legislation creating them become law without his signature and without vetoing it.

Bredesen, however, has called for the legislature to review the specialty plate program, though there is no way of knowing how that will impact the Choose Life plate. He says the plate system has grown too large and too political.

Ten states currently allow Choose Life plates on residents’ cars: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, and Louisiana, and Montana.

Both Tennessee and South Carolina have approved "Choose Life" plates, but have not yet made them available to motorists.

According to Russ Amerling, National Publicity Coordinator for Choose Life, the plates have generated approximately 2.3 million dollars nationwide to abortion alternatives, such as adoption and crisis pregnancy centers.

Florida’s "Choose Life" plates have generated 2 million of that revenue, and according to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, the "Choose Life" plates were the #9 top selling specialty plates among 89 in that state in the past 12 months.

Related web sites:
Tennessee Right to Life – https://www.tnrtl.org