Gov’t bus company changes course, allows pro-life ad with photos of unborn baby

Tippecanoe County Right to Life
An ad by the Tippecanoe County Right to Life organization. On Monday, July 23, 2018, the pro-life group sued the Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation over rejecting the ad due to its political nature. |

An Indiana-based pro-life group will now be allowed to run an ad on the sides of buses featuring two images of human fetuses after being initially rejected by a public transportation system.

The Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation, also called CityBus, recently agreed to allow an ad from Tippecanoe County Right to Life less than a year after the pro-life group filed a lawsuit against them.

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Samuel Green, whose law firm represented Right to Life, celebrated CityBus’ decision in a statement released Thursday.

“We are thankful that CityBus is now allowing this educational message to reach people as they study, shop, and commute. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all people, regardless of their beliefs or their viewpoint,” stated Green.

Right to Life’s ad features photos of three babies, two in the womb and one newborn. The first photo, a sonogram image, has the caption "Me." The second says "Me, again" while the newborn photo says "Still Me."

Last July, Right to Life filed the lawsuit against CityBus in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, arguing that the bus system discriminated against them for refusing to run the ad.

"By rejecting TCRTL's educational ad while accepting other educational ads and ads that are explicitly political, CityBus violated TCRTL's constitutional rights and discriminated against TCRTL by denying it equal access to CityBus's advertising forum," read the complaint.

"TCRTL asks this Court to require CityBus to allow TCRTL's educational ad on its buses and to declare that certain provisions of CityBus's Advertising Policy violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments."

Tippecanoe Right To Life ad
Tippecanoe Right To Life ad on a bus |

For its part, CityBus had argued that the proposed pro-life ad violated their policy against political ads, though critics were quick to point out that more overtly political ads such as electoral campaigns had gotten approval in the past.

Last November, U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen rejected CityBus’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Right to Life was within its rights to file the suit.

Judge Van Bokkelen also took issue with the defendant’s claim that CityBus General Manager Marty Sennett’s initial rejection was not grounds for litigation.  

“There is no doubt that Sennett’s initial decision to reject the ad amounted to a definitive position that inflicted an actual, concrete injury,” wrote Van Bokkelen, as reported by the Lafayette Journal & Courier.   

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