[JURIST] A federal judge ruled [opinion, PDF; ADF press release] Wednesday that the state of Missouri cannot deny an anti-abortion group's application for a specialty license plate with an anti-abortion message, holding that the Missouri law that allowed the denial was unconstitutionally vague. Choose Life of Missouri [advocacy website] had applied to get specialty license plates with the message "Choose Life," but its application was rejected when two senators on the license plate approval committee objected. In Missouri, specialty license plates must be approved by a panel consisting of seven senators, seven representatives and three non-voting state officials. US District Judge Scott Wright also found the Missouri law unconstitutional because it did not include protections against state officials denying application based on viewpoint discrimination. The Missouri attorney general's office has not decided whether it will appeal the decision. The Kansas City Star has more.
Abortion [JURIST news archive] is a hot-button issue in Missouri, where the legislature is dominated by an anti-abortion majority. In May, the Missouri Supreme Court unanimously upheld [opinion; JURIST report] a 2005 law that allows parents to sue people who help their minor daughters get an abortion without parental consent. Planned Parenthood had challenged the law on the basis that it infringed the group's First Amendment right to free speech by blocking it from disseminating information or counseling clients about abortion. In April, the US Supreme Court issued an order [PDF text; JURIST report] vacating a 2005 decision [PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit striking down Missouri's 1999 "partial birth" abortion ban [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court's ruling followed its earlier decision in Gonzales v. Carhart [text; JURIST report] upholding the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 [PDF text].