by Steven Ertelt
June 29, 2006
Baton Rouge, LA (LifeNews.com) — In addition to refusing to hear a pro-abortion group’s challenge to Choose Life plates in Tennessee, the Supreme Court this week also decided against holding hearings on an appeal from Louisiana abortion advocates in their efforts to derail the plates there. But the case isn’t over yet.
Pro-abortion New Orleans attorney Bill Rittenberg said the high court’s decision marks the end of the case in the federal court system, but he plans to assist abortion advocates in re-filing the case in state courts.
Instead of challenging the license plates directly, the Louisiana case challenges the state’s entire specialty plate system because the state legislature did not approve pro-abortion plates. If their case is successful, all specialty license plates would be prohibited in the state, which angers many nonprofit and charitable groups.
However, Kris Wartelle, a representative of the state attorney general’s office, told the New Orleans Times Picayune newspaper that the state is ready to defend the plates in state courts.
Wartelle also told the newspaper that the sale of the Choose Life license plates, which were suspended when the case was in lower federal courts, resumed in January. That happened after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not overturn a three judge panel’s ruling to stop the lawsuit from proceeding.
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.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval had initially ruled in 2003 that the plate system was unconstitutional.
Pro-abortion groups originally took the Choose Life plates to court and the 5th Circuit dismissed the case. They then filed the lawsuit challenging the entire system.
The pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based law firm that is behind the lawsuit, criticized the Supreme Court for not hearing the appeal.
"The Louisiana state Legislature has now been given the green light to muzzle a specific group of people simply because certain elected officials disagree with their point of view," CRR president Nancy Northrup told the New Orleans newspaper.
Last year 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.
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.
Planned Parenthood and the Greater New Orleans Council of Jewish Women are also plaintiffs in the Louisiana Choose Life license plate case.