by Steven Ertelt
March 30, 2006
Nashville, TN (LifeNews.com) — Abortion advocates in Tennessee are planning to appeal last week’s decision by a federal appeals court that the state of Tennessee can sell Choose Life license plates. The court ruled the plates could be sold even though the state legislature rejected a pro-abortion version.
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said his group will appeal the decision.
That’s upsetting state Rep. Glen Casada, a Republican, who said the pro-abortion group is holding the license plates hostage. He accused the state of not moving forward with producing the plates when it should based on the appeals court ruling.
"They’re playing it too safe," Casada told the Tennessean newspaper. "Just because there’s a chance for appeals, there is no reason to stop what the 6th Circuit said was OK to do. It’s time to move forward."
Weinberg has no sympathy for pro-life groups hoping the plates would be produced and money starting to come in to help pregnant women find help and resources as well as abortion alternatives.
"It’s unfortunate some people thought production of the plates was under way," Weinberg said. "There’s another step to take."
The plates have been on hold for three years thanks to the ACLU lawsuit, which Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee has joined.
Michelle Tassart of Tennessee Right to Life called the lawsuit frivolous but she said her pro-life group and others have "shown that we won’t be silenced" by continuing to fight the lawsuit.
Julie Oaks, spokeswoman for the Department of Safety, told the Tennessean that the agency would not begin producing the plates until the lawsuit is finalized.
In its ruling, the appeals court called the legislature’s decision to approve only pro-life license plates "one-sided" but not an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.
"Although this exercise of government one-sidedness with respect to a very contentious political issue may be ill-advised, we are unable to conclude that the Tennessee statute contravenes the First Amendment," Judge John Rogers wrote for the 2-1 majority.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati went on to say, "Government can express public policy views by enlisting private volunteers to disseminate its message."
In 2003, a lower court overturned the plates but the appeals court overruled that decision.
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.
Related web sites:
Tennessee Right to Life – https://www.tnrtl.org