By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
January 7, 2013
RALEIGH — North Carolina’s attempts to offer a Choose Life license plate, stalled by a federal ruling Dec. 7, may be cranking back up as the State Attorney General announced Friday he’ll appeal the ruling.
“Like many other pro-life advocates across the state as well as many pro-life lawmakers, we had hoped for and expected this appeal,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
“We’re confident that North Carolina will eventually join the 29 other states that offer the plates. It appears to us a matter of consistently defending the First Amendment rights of Tar Heel drivers and, quite frankly, the rights of legislators to decide what messages are positive and appropriate to be presented for display on our state’s license tags.”
The quest to offer Choose Life plates, with accompanying funds to benefit pregnancy care centers across the state, started nearly a decade ago as pro-life groups began to lobby the Legislature. In 2011, lawmakers approved Choose Life as well as more than 60 other new plate designs. But as the bill neared its finish line, abortion supporters demanded a “Trust Women. Respect Choice” plate be added to the list. Lawmakers declined, and shortly after the bill passed, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit. On Dec. 7, U.S. District Court Judge James Fox ruled the plates unconstitutional because of the lack of a similar avenue of expression for pro-abortion forces, citing “viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.”
Dr. Creech had pointed out earlier that it is not in the state’s interest to promote abortion, but rather, as prior courts have ruled, “the encouragement of childbirth is a legitimate governmental objective” one which lines up perfectly with the Choose Life plates. Further, pregnancy care centers are non-profit agencies that do not receive government funds but offer a variety of services to mothers facing unplanned pregnancies. And, like all the other specialty plates, Choose Life would simply be an option that drivers could choose if they wanted.
He said if the state is to be forced to approve a pro-abortion plate, it would also have to offer the antithesis of all 150 plates including those for Animal Lovers, Save the Sea Turtles, etc.
“What’s next? Kill the turtles? Animal haters? Our hope is that with this appeal, common sense will prevail,” he said. “Pro-abortion forces had and still have the same opportunity that pro-life advocates did to persuade lawmakers to grant their tag. It takes persistence and it takes voting for lawmakers that are willing to represent their constituents. Where were these pro-abortion folks for the last 10 years, when they could have been winning lawmakers to their side?”
Peter Roff, a U.S. News & World Report contributing editor, shared a similar view in a recent column.
The plates do not constitution the endorsement or establishment of a particular religion — there are plenty of atheists who are pro-life — and so it’s hard to see how their being issued in the absence of a similar plate that could be purchased by abortion-rights supporters constitutes a violation of the First Amendment,” he wrote.
“The state is not obliged to promote both sides of every issue. The ‘Choose Life’ plates were produced through the democratic process, by action of the state legislature. By tossing them out the federal courts are engaged in a form or judicial tyranny by forcing equality of viewpoints where none is required.”
The state’s appeal of Judge Fox’s ruling has not yet been filed. The CAL will continue to follow the case.