Clinton Appointee Strikes Down ‘Choose Life’ Plate

‘Disappointed but not surprised’ is how Right to Life leaders characterized their response to Friday’s late afternoon ruling against distribution of Tennessee’s ‘Choose Life’ specialty license plates.  “Truthfully there was little hope that this particular judge would rule in support of the people or the plate,” said Brian Harris, President of Tennessee Right to Life.  “This is simply one more example of activist judges overruling the people and enforcing their own political agendas,” said Harris.
Tennessee Right to Life and New Life Resources will almost certainly appeal today’s wrong decision, according to Harris.  “The only reason that we would not continue this struggle is if our finances do not allow an appeal.”
Tennessee’s Choose Life plate was passed overwhelmingly by bipartisan majorities in both the state Senate (26-4, SB 618, May 7, 2003) and the state House (80-14, HB 788, May 29, 2003.)  Following passage, pro-life Tennesseans sold the most plates of any sponsoring non-profit in the shortest amount of time: 1,265 plates in 6 months representing motorists in all 95 counties.  By contrast, NASCAR supporters passed their bill during the same session but have still failed to pre-sell the required minimum of 1,000 plates.
“Pro-life supporters have a right to be unhappy but we shouldn’t be discouraged,” said Harris. “In this case, U.S. Supreme Court precedent overwhelmingly supports our position in numerous rulings which clearly provide that states may make decisions and policies which “favor normal childbirth over abortion.”   Clearly the Choose Life specialty plate is an example of state speech and policy which promotes the protection of life over abortion.  “As long as funds are available, that’s the case we will make to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals,” said Harris.
Tennessee Right to Life encourages supporters to keep in mind that the state’s only remaining enforceable pro-life law, one parent consent for minor’s abortion, was passed by the Legislature in 1995 but was similarly challenged by the state’s pro-abortion movement.  Ultimately the pro-life policy was not enacted for four years until appealed by the state and upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1999.
As outlined in Choose Life plate applications, plate payments were held in a restricted New Life Resources account and turned over to the Tennessee Department of Safety upon presentation of the 1,265 paid applications in January of 2004.  Since an appeal is expected, it is likely that the state will continue to hold the funds until final settlement of the case.  Otherwise the required threshold of pre-sold plates will not have been met and we would no longer meet the statute’s requirement.
“We have to keep our eye on the big picture and continue to do our positive work of public education, advocacy, electing pro-life leaders and reaching out to our communities with care and concern,” said Harris.  “The rest will take care of itself as long as we remain committed and focused on our goals.”


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