By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Earlier this year North Carolina became the 26th state to approve a Choose Life license plate — a move now under attack from the American Civil Liberties Union, whose N.C. Chapter is suing the state to block the tag’s production and proceeds earmarked for non-profit pregnancy resource centers.
The suit, filed on Sept. 8 on behalf of four pro-choice automobile owners, claims the plate violates the First Amendment because the state doesn’t offer one to tout abortion rights.
“This is a basic issue of freedom of speech and fairness. It is a fundamental tenet of the First Amendment that the State cannot use its authority to promote one side of a debate while denying the same opportunity to the other side,” said Katherine Lewis Parker, the NC ACLU legal director, in a press release. “… Our position would be the same if the State had authorized a pro-choice license plate but not an anti-choice alternative.”
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said North Carolinians have fought long and hard to be able to join the ranks of Choose Life plate purchasers who have already raised more than $12 million in other states.
“The Anti-Choose Life Union (ACLU) has filed suit to stop the ‘Choose Life’ license plate. During all those years the Choose Life plate was being introduced as legislation and wasn’t even allowed a hearing in committee, where were they in defending the rights of pro-life groups to have the message of ‘Choose Life’ on a specialty plate? Nowhere. Silent,” Creech said. “But now they argue for the supposed First Amendment rights of pro-choice advocates to have the same?”
Barbara Holt, president of N.C. Right to Life, told LifeNews.com that “Pro-life groups worked for years to get a ‘Choose Life’ specialty plate through the General Assembly. There is nothing to prevent the individuals who are suing the state from putting forward the same effort to get a plate of their own.”
Choose Life was among some 79 specialty tags approved in June as part of House Bill 289, sponsored by Rep. Mitch Gillespie (R-McDowell). Gillespie had pushed the issue for nine years with little to show for it until new GOP leadership allowed the bill to be heard. A handful of Democrats crossed the aisle to support the measure, which had been promoted heavily by N.C. Pro-Life Democrats.
When legislators opposed to Choose Life floated amendments to add a “Trust Women. Respect Choice” specialty plate with proceeds to benefit leading abortion provider Planned Parenthood, Gillespie urged them to introduce their own bill and asked Choose Life proponents not to support the amendment to his.
Gillespie told the media he doesn’t think that the ACLU will succeed in its suit and that conservative legal groups have offered to help defend the new law.
Creech said the claim of the state having to offer an opposing viewpoint if it offers a specialty plate doesn’t seem valid, especially considering the more than 100 plates already available.
“We have an Animal Lovers plate, a Save the Sea Turtles plate and a Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains plate. By the ACLU reasoning, does that mean lawmakers should also have approved one for Animal Haters, Kill the Sea Turtles and Enemies of the Smokies?” he asked.
The ACLU is filing their suit on behalf of Sue Holliday, Dean Debnam, Maria Magher and Chris Heaney.