State to offer ‘Choose Life’ anti-abortion license plates
Kentucky to offer ‘Choose Life’ anti-abortion license plates
Anti-abortion license plates bearing the message “Choose Life” will be available in Kentucky within a few months, a state official said yesterday.
A federal court ruling issued yesterday in a Tennessee case says such tags are legal, even though they promote only one side of the debate.
Kentucky abortion-rights advocates said they may also push for abortion-rights plates.
Indiana does not have a Choose Life license plate. Legislation to authorize one was introduced in the 1999 and 2000 sessions of the General Assembly but did not pass.
A Kentucky law that took effect last year allows for citizen groups to petition the Transportation Cabinet to design specialty plates, said Doug Hogan, a spokesman for the cabinet.
Linda Jedlicki of Louisville said she plans to get a Choose Life plate in October when she renews her registration on her Subaru Outback.
“I just think it’s the best message you could have driving around town,” said Jedlicki, a community volunteer. “If just one person stops and thinks, ‘Choose Life,’ it’s worth any amount of money or time.”
Groups seeking specialty plates must present at least 900 prepaid plate applications, be a Kentucky-based nonprofit organization, and meet criteria regarding the message of the specialty plate.
The plates can’t be obscene, promote a political party or position, promote a religious faith, or discriminate on the basis of race, sex or national origin, Hogan said.
In the Tennessee case, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati overturned a lower-court ruling that said the tag illegally promoted only one side of the abortion debate, according to The Associated Press.
“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 M. Rogers said in a 2-1 ruling.
An anti-abortion group, Tennessee Right to Life, declared victory.
“It’s a validation of our position all along that the legislature had the authority to authorize a plate that favors normal childbirth over the practice of abortion,” said Brian Harris, the group’s president.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr. said the specialty-plate program is unconstitutional because it discriminates against one side in the abortion debate.
The plaintiffs, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, said they were still reviewing yesterday’s ruling.
Abortion-rights proponents complained the state does not offer those with other political views a similar way to express them. An attempt to create a Choose Choice tag failed in the legislature in 2002.
Federal appeals courts have been divided over whether such license-plate programs are constitutional. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower-court ruling that said similar South Carolina license plates violated the First Amendment.
Drivers will be able to pay an extra fee in Tennessee for the Choose Life plate, and some of the proceeds will go to New Life Resources, an anti-abortion group.
‘Choose Life’ in other states
Other states that offer Choose Life plates are Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Most states donate proceeds to adoption groups, but Alabama, Hawaii, Maryland and Montana donate at least some of the money to anti-abortion groups.