North Carolina could stop the anti-abortion license plate bleeding, but they won’t.

In 2011, North Carolina passed a bill that would allow its citizens to get vanity anti-abortion license plates.

Immediately, the ACLU filed a case against it.  It was an open and shut case in which the plates were deemed unconstitutional.

“This is a great victory for the free speech rights of all North Carolinians, regardless of their point of view on reproductive freedom,” said Chris Brook of the ACLU. “The government cannot create an avenue of expression for one side of a contentious political issue while denying an equal opportunity to citizens with the opposite view.”

And he’s right.  The state could have also put out a pro-choice license plate, but decided not to.

During the fight to get the bill passed, North Carolina lawmakers voted down amendments that would have created pro-choice alternatives such as “Trust Women. Respect Choice,” the affiliate reported.

Because governing in the interest of all of your citizens equally is so passé.  But don’t worry, the state’s leadership is set to piss away tax dollars on a separation case that couldn’t even be won with the Chewbacca defense.

Republican state Rep. Mitch Gillespie, who sponsored the bill for the “Choose Life” plates, said he would push for an appeal of the judge’s decision, CNN affiliate WRAL reported.

The pricey appeal, doomed to failure from the outset, will be supported by the same voters who will later bemoan wasteful spending in government while supporting these same legislators.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Jenni

    oh awesome, just found out Ohio has these lovely plates too :( and a super awersome “One Nation Under God” plate too.

    • SparkyB

      Ugh. I just realized that even my liberal state of Massachusetts has them. Apparently it is an organization, Choose Life Inc., that is pushing for this. Apparently they are available in 27 states with 15 more in the works.

  • BionicWoman

    Chewbacca defense?

  • Drew

    Please forgive me if this double posts, I can’t see my previous one after several refreshes.

    Anyway, the Chewbacca defense

  • Carys Birch

    Could that plate be any uglier? I’m glad it was unconstitutional on every ground, principle and because I don’t want to look at it.

  • Nicole Introvert

    We have the same plates in Virginia. Sometimes when people are honking and yelling at those of us doing Clinic Escort (the clinic is at a pretty busy intersection) and can’t figure out if they are jeering at us or the anti-choice protesters, it becomes crystal clear when we see that license plate go by.

  • Ahcuah

    With all due respect, I think this will be overturned on appeal. The state is allowed to have a point of view, and to say things on its own. Things would be different if this were a religious claim, but it is not (even though heavily associated with one particularly religious slant).
    After all, Indiana, for instance, has a plate that says something like “support children”. Is that state also required to produce a plate that says, “abandon children”? Of course not.
    (Note: I say all this as one supportive of choice.)

    • Glodson

      That’s an apples to oranges comparison. Abandoning Children is not a political talking point for any major part, or a major political force. It would be like allowing a plate that supported banning gay marriage, but not allowing for the opposing view supporting marriage equality. Or a plate that called for tax breaks for the wealthy but not one for taxing the wealthy at a higher rate.

      • Ahcuah

        Sorry, but it’s not. “Political talking point” is not prohibited when it comes to government speech. Only religion (and a few other things).
        And a gay marriage plate would fall under the same rule. Any of your examples would also be ok (as per most court rulings I’ve seen).

      • Ahcuah

        Let me give another, less extreme example. A plate that says, “Get Vaccinated”. The government, if it decides to offer such a plate, is not required to also provide a competing plate, “Vaccines Cause Autism”. Even if it is a political talking point for some people.

        • Glodson

          Really? It isn’t about it being prohibited. It is about the state taking a side on this political issue. This is a state issued license plate, and they aren’t granted Free Speech. The people are. We are. If I can’t have a Pro-Choice one, why should the state produce a Pro-life one? If I can have a Democrat one, why should the state not produce a GOP one?

          This isn’t about people not having the right to put them on their bumper. It is about the state not having the right to selectively chose a side over another. The state doesn’t get to select which part of the political landscape to institutionalize. If they did offer the opposing viewpoint, this would be legal. They elected not to. Which robs those against this political point of the chance to express themselves in the same fashion.

          • Ahcuah

            Please provide citations for your contention. As far as I know, there are none.

          • Ahcuah

            OK. I’m wrong. I’ve looked into it further, and there is already controlling precedent in the 4th Circuit. Planned Parenthood of South Carolina v. Rose, 361 F.3d 786 (2004). They ruled the equivalent SC version unconstitutional.

            I still think they’re wrong (and the US Supreme Court has not yet decided). If you read the decision I cite, they distinguish between governmental speech and private speech, and say that these license place are a mixture. What I think they miss is that nobody is being forced to put the plates on their car. If you want to give a pro-choice message, it is easy enough for you to get a non-choose-life plate, and add a bumper sticker. I still don’t see how that is viewpoint discrimination. The government has not the right of free speech, but the power to speak its mind (as expressed through the legislature), unless limited by a constitutional provision. And nobody’s right to say what they want has been limited. All that has been limited is to say it on a license plate.

          • Ahcuah

            One more thing: in the Sixth Circuit, such plates have been declared constitutional. American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee v. Bredesen, 441 F.3d 370 (2006):

            In this case we are required to decide the constitutionality of Tennessee’s statute making available the purchase of automobile license plates with a “Choose Life” 372*372 inscription, but not making available the purchase of automobile license plates with a “pro-choice” or pro-abortion rights message. See TENN. CODE ANN. § 55-4-306. Although this exercise of government one-sidedness with respect to a very contentious political issue may be ill-advised, we are unable to conclude that the Tennessee statute contravenes the First Amendment. Government can express public policy views by enlisting private volunteers to disseminate its message, and there is no principle under which the First Amendment can be read to prohibit government from doing so because the views are particularly controversial or politically divisive. We accordingly reverse the judgment of the district court invalidating the statute on First Amendment grounds.

  • Loqi

    “Viewpoint discrimination?” That’s a thing? That makes me raise an eyebrow. Does anyone have a reference as to what exactly that means?

    • Steve

      Not only is it a thing, but viewpoint discrimination falls under strict scrutiny. Simplified, it means the government can’t – without a very good reason – prohibit people from expressing an opinion on a certain issue while officially supporting or not also prohibiting the opposing opinion.

  • Mark

    I thought this plate was against capital punishment.