by Steven Ertelt
April 13, 2005
New Orleans, LA (LifeNews.com) — A federal appeals court has turned back a challenge from abortion advocates to overturn the entire specialty plate system in Louisiana because they are unhappy with the state’s approval of Choose Life license plates.
A three judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal district judge’s ruling that overturned both the Choose Life plate legislation and the specialty plate system.
The judges said the case was similar to a tax dispute and belongs in state courts rather than the federal judiciary.
The plates are sold for $25 extra and the fee, which funds pregnancy centers offering abortion alternatives, is similar to a tax, the judges wrote. As a result, it’s a state issue.
William Rittenberg, an attorney for the pro-abortion groups that filed the suit, said the appeals court was avoiding its argument that the plates discriminate against abortion advocates.
"They’re ducking the issue of whether or not it’s viewpoint discrimination and giving the state a device to discriminate," he told the Associated Press.
Pro-abortion groups originally took the Choose Life plates to court and the 5th Circuit dismissed the case. They later filed a lawsuit against the Louisiana specialty plate system, angering other charity groups that rely on the plate proceeds for funds.
In July 2003, U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval said the “Choose Life” plates do not offer both points of view on the abortion debate and that the plates constitute a public forum.
Abortion advocates are expected to appeal the 5th Circuit’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In January, the nation’s high court decided not take a case about South Carolina’s Choose Life plates. In that case, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals 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.
While the case has been in federal court, Louisiana residents could not purchase new plates, but could renew plates for ones they previously bought.
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. Lawmakers approved the plates in 1998.