North Carolina “Choose Life” License Plates “Unconstitutional”, Says Federal Court

The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a judge’s ruling that North Carolina’s anti-abortion “Choose Life” license plate is unconstitutional.

At issue is that there is no plate supporting the competing (pro-abortion) viewpoint. There is no plate which reads “Abortion Is Good” or “Choose Death”.

Actually, there were some proposals from the abortion rights side which were proposed but rejected in 2011, when North Carolina lawmakers approved the “Choose Life” plate. Rejected proposals included a “Trust Women” plate and a “Respect Choice” plate. That, in the view of the Appeals Court, is “blatant viewpoint discrimination squarely at odds with the First Amendment.”

The key issue in the case was whether the specialty license plate is purely government speech, in which case the State of North Carolina would have sole discretion over the message—or whether it is individual speech and therefore protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

The “Choose Life” plate is one of 80 specialty plates which were approved by the State Legislature in 2011. Of the $25 cost for the plate, $15 would go to help in the work of crisis pregnancy centers and pro-life organizations throughout the state.

Among the 152 “approved” license plates on the state’s website are plates supporting state and local universities, military organizations, NASCAR drivers, sports teams, nature and animals, parks and forests, and private organizations.  There were a number of plates celebrating Masonic lodges and Islamic centers (but no Catholic or Christian churches). Among the interesting plates I found on the state’s website are designs supporting Kids First, “In God We Trust”, Hospice and Home Care, the Knights of Columbus, Breast Cancer Awareness, Tobacco Heritage, Watermelon, and Shag Dancing.


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  • kenofken

    It’s not individual speech. Licence plates bearing the state’s name and logo, and carrying the weight of many state laws, strongly implies that the message within is endorsed by the state. The state shouldn’t be in the business of personal expression for any cause. That’s what bumper stickers are for.

    • kathyschiffer

      Hmm…. Football teams? Universities? Danika Patrick? The Freemasons? Save the forests? Sorry–ANY custom plate is going to favor one thing over another.

  • What bull dung!