Federal Court Throws Out NARAL'S Suit Against Ohio's "Choose Life" License Plates

Oct 6, 2005

Cleveland, OH - Federal District Judge Donald Nugent threw out a challenge to Ohio's "Choose Life" license plate which was brought by the National Abortion Rights Action League ("NARAL"). NARAL sought to block the "Choose Life" specialty plate, along with the entire system of specialty and vanity license plates. Liberty Counsel filed a motion to intervene to protect the free speech rights of those who desire to purchase the plate and facilities that promote adoption. Representing Cornerstone Pregnancy Services, Isaiah's Hope, Mary Ellen Urmin and Patrick Corrigan, Liberty Counsel also filed a motion to dismiss NARAL's lawsuit.

Anyone who purchases a "Choose Life" plate pays an additional fee to obtain the plate. Those funds are then used to support local crisis pregnancy centers or other organizations that promote adoption. The law prohibits funds generated from the proceeds of the plates to go to any entity that provides, promotes, or refers for abortion. Ohio currently authorizes more than fifty specialty plates, many of which contain private expression.

Earlier this year, Judge Nugent denied NARAL's request for an emergency order in which the pro-abortion group sought to block the specialty plates. Following that ruling, Ohio immediately began issuing the "Choose Life" plates. In Judge Nugent's recent 15-page order, he dismissed the suit outright. He ruled that the lawsuit in federal court was barred by the Tax Injunction Act. The Tax Injunction Act prohibits federal courts from enjoining an assessment, levy or collection of any tax under state law when state courts offer a "plain, speedy and efficient remedy." 28 U.S.C. § 1341. Since Judge Nugent ruled that the federal courts lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, he did not reach the merits of the First Amendment defenses to NARAL's suit.

Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, was pleased with the ruling. He stated: "Just as Ohio can warn of the health consequences of smoking, so the state is entitled to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion. If those who call themselves 'pro-choice' were genuinely concerned about the best interests of women and children, they would welcome a pro-adoption message. Their actions betray their rhetoric."

Liberty Counsel successfully intervened on behalf of individuals and crisis pregnancy centers to defend Florida's "Choose Life" license plate. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in the first ruling of its kind in the country, upheld Florida's "Choose Life" license plate. Liberty Counsel also defending Arkansas's "Choose Life" plate. Liberty Counsel has also filed a brief in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to defend Tennessee's "Choose Life" license plate.

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