Tennessee Choose Life License Plates Get Appeals Court Hearing

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 3, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Tennessee Choose Life License Plates Get Appeals Court Hearing Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
November 3, 2005

Cincinnati, OH (LifeNews.com) — A federal appeals court held a hearing on legislation allowing motorists in Tennessee to purchase Choose Life license plates and a pro-abortion attorney argued that the law should be overturned because abortion advocates didn’t get their own alternative.

Pro-life attorney Jim Bopp, argued on behalf of New Life Resources, a crisis pregnancy center that would benefit from proceeds for the sale of the plates. Bopp told a three judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that the legislature has the right to certify license plate it approves and is under no obligation to back others.

"Tennessee residents who oppose abortion can express their point of view on state-issued plates, but abortion rights advocates cannot," ACLU lawyer Julie Steinberg countered.

Steinberg urged the court to uphold the ruling by a federal judge who struck down the license plate measure.

Judge Boyce Martin joined the other two justices in questioning the two attorneys, according to an Associated Press report. "We all know this is an issue that is highly contentious, highly divisive and highly controversial," he said.

But Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, says the judges should uphold the law because the Supreme Court has allowed states to favor life over abortion.

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

"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. Gov. Phil Bredesen allowed the measure to become law 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.

The appeals court panel said it would take up the case and did not provide a timeline for when it would hand down a ruling.

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