Tennessee Choose Life Plates Survive Pro-Abortion Lawsuit at Supreme Court

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 26, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Tennessee Choose Life Plates Survive Pro-Abortion Lawsuit at Supreme Court

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
June 26, 2006

Nashville, TN (LifeNews.com) — The U.S. Supreme Court has indicated it will not take a pro-abortion lawsuit seeking to prevent the sales of Choose Life license plates in Tennessee. The decision is a victory for pro-life advocates who are hoping the plates will generate tens of thousands of dollars to help pregnant women find abortion alternatives.

The nation’s high court did not say why it wouldn’t take the case, but it is the second Choose Life plate case the high court has declined to consider. Last year it would not accept for hearings a lawsuit from South Carolina, where pro-life advocates were appealing a court decision striking down the plates.

Tennessee Right to Life president Brian Harris applauded the Supreme Court’s decision and urged Gov. Phil Bredesen to quickly authorize the manufacture and distribution of the license plates.

"Tennesseans have waited long enough to get this plate on the road and generating proceeds for agencies which help women and families facing difficult pregnancies," Harris said in a statement provided to LifeNews.com.

"It’s time for Mr. Bredesen to do the right thing and allow these plates to serve the positive purposes for which they were approved," Harris added.

Julie Oaks, spokeswoman for the Department of Safety, previously told the Tennessean newspaper that the agency would not begin producing the plates until the lawsuit is finalized.

The Tennessee litigation concerned an appeal of a federal appeals court decision in a lawsuit the ACLU filed to stop the plates.

The pro-abortion law firm said the plates amounted to so-called viewpoint discrimination since the state legislature approved a bill for Choose Life tags but not a pro-abortion plate. The appeals court ruled the plates could be sold even anyway.

The plates had been on hold for three years because of the lawsuit, which Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee joined.

Since that time, Tennessee Right to Life has sold more than 7,500 promotional Choose Life front plates with the same image of the actual state-authorized license plate. Proceeds from the $10 plates are helping to fund the legal defense of the plates.

"It’s been an enormous undertaking to raise the necessary funds to fight the well-funded ACLU and Planned Parenthood," Harris told LifeNews.com.

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