Tennessee Choose Life License Plates Head to Appeals Court

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 29, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Tennessee Choose Life License Plates Head to Appeals Court Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 29, 2005

Nashville, TN (LifeNews.com) — A pro-abortion lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Tennessee’s Choose Life license plates is headed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals next month. State officials are concerned that a ruling against the plates could affect the rest of the specialty plate system there.

Abortion advocates claim the plates are unconstitutional because they allow pro-life advocates to express their opinions but not those who favor abortion. But, Brian Harris of Tennessee Right to Life says the Supreme Court has ruled that state’s can express in opinion in favor of childbirth.

"Recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court continue to underscore what we’ve said all along," Harris explained. "Legislatures have not only the right to make policy decisions which favor specific viewpoints, they also have a responsibility to do so."

Ann Tidwell, president of Friends of Radnor Lake, told the Tennessean newspaper that her group is worried the appeals court will strike down the whole plate system.

"It would be a shame for a political controversy to stop a program that has been so helpful for universities and nonprofits," she said.

In addressing that concern, state attorneys drafted legal papers asking the appeals court to give them time during the hearing to ask that the plate system not be dismantled.

Tennessee Right to Life sponsored the Choose Life plate to raise funds for pregnancy centers that help women with unplanned pregnancies, but the ACLU took the plates to court after they received approval from the state legislature claiming a violation of its free speech rights.

"Tennessee’s Choose Life plate is clearly a program in which the legislators overwhelmingly agreed that providing practical assistance to women facing difficult pregnancies was both benevolent and appropriate," said Harris.

U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell in Nashville sided with the ACLU. The state did not appeal the ruling, but TRTL, as a party in the case, did.

The Choose Life plate passed overwhelmingly in the final days of the 2003 legislative session 80-14 in the state House and 26-4 in the state Senate. Pro-abortion Governor Bredesen refused to sign the bill into law, allowing it to take effect without his signature.

Supporters of the plate quickly presented more than the required pre-paid applications and submitted 1,265 applications in just six months representing drivers from each of the
state’s 95 counties. Those applications are still being held by the Tennessee Department of Safety pending the outcome of the Choose Life lawsuit.

Oral arguments in the lawsuit, ACLU v. Bredesen, have been set for Wednesday, November 2, 2005 in Cincinnati.

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