North Carolina has become the latest state to issue "Choose Life" license plates — and the ACLU is suing to stop them.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, the plates will cost $25, with $15 going to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, which "exists to offer help and encouragement to those God calls into pregnancy care ministry" and which operates crisis pregnancy centers throughout the state. Attempts to introduce alternative plates that read "Respect Choice" or "Trust Women. Respect Choice" failed to gain traction with the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature. So the ACLU is suing on behalf of a group of "pro-choice automobile owners" who say the state is preferentially endorsing one viewpoint. Katherine Lewis Parker, legal director of the ACLU's North Carolina branch, explains,
The state is opening up a forum to one side of the argument. When they do that, they are constitutionally obligated to open to the other side.
She adds that "this is a free speech case — not an abortion case," and that the ACLU would be equally likely to challenge a state that produced only pro-choice plates. But state Rep. Mitch Gillespie, the plates' Republican sponsor, has another take — he says the suit is merely an effort by "an evil liberal organization to try to appease its liberal base." He also says he thinks it will fail. He could be right — "Choose Life" plates have been adopted in other states (like Mississippi, pictured above). However, in New Jersey, that's the result of an anti-abortion organization wearing down the state DMV until it finally gave in to save legal fees. If the ACLU is more persistent, perhaps they can convince the courts that the state Division of Motor Vehicles shouldn't get a vote on abortion rights.