Court Throws Out Challenge to Ohio's 'Choose Life' Tags

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - A federal judge in Ohio has thrown out a lawsuit aimed at blocking Ohio's "Choose Life" license plates, one of many specialty plates that the state offers for an extra fee.

Money raised by the "Choose Life" tags goes to groups that counsel pregnant women about adoption. Ohio law prohibits funds generated by sales of the "Choose Life" tags to go to any group that provides, promotes, or refers women for abortion.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, represented by the ACLU of Ohio, argued that in issuing the "Choose Life" plates, Ohio was engaging in "viewpoint discrimination" because the state has not approved a "Pro-Choice" plate.

In his 15-page order, Judge Donald Nugent's dismissed the suit, ruling that federal law prohibits federal courts from interfering with the collection of state taxes -- in this case, revenue generated by sales of the plates. He did not rule on the merits of the First Amendment issues arising from the case.

"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," said Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, which defended Ohio's "Choose Life" tags.

"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," Staver said.

Liberty Counsel is currently defending Arkansas's "Choose Life" plate and it hopes to defend Tennessee's "Choose Life" license plate as well.

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