by Steven Ertelt
January 27, 2005
Baton Rouge, LA (LifeNews.com) — The status of the Choose Life license plates in Louisiana are in limbo following a Supreme Court decision to not take a case about South Carolina’s plates. Now, attention turns to a federal appeals court to determine what will happen with Louisiana’s specialty license plates.
In July 2003, U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval said the “Choose Life” plates, which benefit groups that help women in crisis pregnancies, do not offer both points of view on the abortion debate in the public forum of license plates.
Both sides have been waiting since last April for a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to either back or reverse Duval’s decision.
Speculation has been that the appeals court was waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision in the South Carolina case.
In that case, the 4th circuit appeals court ruled that the plates violated the free speech rights of pro-abortion South Carolina residents, who don’t have a pro-abortion plate to purchase.
However, Assistant Attorney General Roy Mongrue, who argued Louisiana’s case at the 5th circuit appeals court hearing, says the Supreme Court decision doesn’t affirm the 4th circuit’s decision.
"It simply means that the Supreme Court chose not to consider the case at this time," Mongrue told the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper.
"The Supreme Court’s denial of writs does not constitute any sort of binding precedent that must be followed by all of the federal district or circuit courts," Mongrue added. "The 5th Circuit … is not bound to follow the 4th Circuit decision."
Mongrue told the Advocate he was confident the 5th circuit would uphold Louisiana’s plates.
If the appeals court does that, pro-abortion groups are excepted to appeal. Then, Mongrue said, the Supreme Court will have an even more compelling reason to take the case.
In Louisiana, abortion advocates first filed a lawsuit against the Choose Life plates, which the 5th circuit dismissed, and then they sued to overturn the entire specialty plate system, upsetting other nonprofit groups with plates in the process.
While the case is on appeal, Louisiana residents cannot purchase new Choose Life plates, but they can renew the ones they have.
The plates were approved in a 1999 bill signed by then-Governor Mike Foster and an attempt to create a pro-abortion plate failed in 2002.
Organizations that perform or recommend abortion are not eligible to receive the funding from the Louisiana plates, which is the case in other states that have them.