Tennessee in Legal Battle Over “Choose Life” License Plates



Tennessee's new pro-life license plate — which is not even in circulation yet — has caused such an outcry that abortion advocacy groups have carried the state to court.

The license plate, which displays the phrase “Choose Life,” is causing a problem for organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood because the state did not offer a “Pro-Choice” alternative. The legal battle has now made its way to Cincinnati, in the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Abortion rights activists, with the ACLU in tow, say they are being discriminated against with the new license plates. The panel of judges representing the Circuit Court of Appeals has taken the case under advisement and has not determined when it will rule.

Several years ago, the Tennessee Legislature began a special program that allows private groups to participate in the revenue sharing of funds collected on special license plates, which are an extra $35. Over the past several years, 90 different special plates have been created, and the monies have benefited such projects as state parks, agriculture, colleges, arts and various other areas of interest. In the case of Tennessee's “Choose Life” plate, half of the funds raised, after expenses, go to the pro-life group New Life Resources, an outreach of Tennessee Right to Life.

The Choose Life plates were created in 2003 by a legislative bill, but a subsequent amendment to allow the Pro-Choice alternative was voted down. Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen allowed the measure to become law without his signature, and then called for a review of the entire specialty plate program.

That is when the ACLU entered the picture and, along with Planned Parenthood and three individuals, challenged the Choose Life specialty plates. In September 2004, a federal judge in Tennessee ruled in favor of the ACLU, citing a ruling from the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in a similar case in South Carolina.

New Life Resources argued that the Choose Life plates were no different than anti-drug messages or messages geared at urging children to finish school. But the ACLU countered that no state has the right to deliver such a message.

Tennessee Right to Life is urging those who want the Choose Life license plate to contact their legislators and the court system, expressing their support for the Choose Life plates — and their opposition to efforts seeking to prevent the proposed pro-life plates from ever being seen on the road.

(This article courtesy of Agape Press.)

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