Mississippi Choose Life Plates Could Face Legal Challenge

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 28, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Maria Vitale Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
January 28, 2005

Jackson, MS (LifeNews.com) — Mississippi’s “Choose Life" license plates could face a legal challenge, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday.

The High Court refused to consider whether states may offer license tags with pro-life messages. The ruling involved “Choose Life" license plates in South Carolina.

Lower courts are divided about whether such plates restrict speech in a manner that is unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Mississippi has not ruled out a challenge to a state law that authorized “Choose Life" license plates in 2002.

“It is something that’s on our radar," an ACLU executive told the Associated Press. “We will be investigating it to see if there are any opportunities to challenge it."

The Mississippi ACLU is currently looking at legal, legislative, and advocacy strategies to fight pro-life laws.

Since the Mississippi law went into effect, more than 12,000 of the “Choose Life" specialty tags have been issued. The plates have raised more than $400,000 for a group of 30 pregnancy resource centers that offer women alternatives to abortion. The ACLU now says it wants to investigate where the money is going.

According to Lee Yancy, a member of the Choose Life Car Tag Committee, the resource centers provide educational assistance to pregnant women and items for babies after they’re born. Assistance is also given to couples who want to adopt.

“I can’t see any harm in that," Yancy told the AP.

Meanwhile, Susan Hill, the president of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s lone abortion business, told AP her group would not be involved in the “Choose Life" controversy because “we’ve got some bigger issues in Mississippi."

Hill’s organization has won a preliminary injunction against a state law that bars early second trimester abortions at abortion facilities.

In the South Carolina case, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that “Choose Life" license plates violate the First Amendment because supporters of legal abortion were not given similar forums for expressing their views.

As a result of the Supreme Court action, South Carolina will either have to eliminate the specialty plates or begin offering plates with pro-abortion views.