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'Choose Life' license plates ruled unconstitutional in North Carolina
December 11th, 2012
01:13 AM ET

'Choose Life' license plates ruled unconstitutional in North Carolina

By Joe Sutton, CNN

(CNN) - A federal judge ruled that North Carolina's new "Choose Life" license plates are unconstitutional because the state does not offer a pro-choice alternative.

"The State's offering a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice alternative constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment," U.S. District Court Judge James Fox wrote in the ruling Friday.

The ruling was praised by the American Civil Liberties Union, which had filed a lawsuit in 2011 to stop the specialty plates.

"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."

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 bill for the license plates passed in 2011, and the legislation also mandated that money raised from the sale of the specialty plates would go to a nonprofit that supports crisis pregnancy centers, WRAL reported.

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.

The "Choose Life" plates are available in 29 states, according to Choose Life Inc., a nonprofit that helps states that want to sell these specialty plates.

- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Abortion • Courts • North Carolina

soundoff (3,213 Responses)
  1. snowdogg

    good call

    December 11, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  2. janetlaw

    You can choose these "sayings" in 29 states...really? I don't care what it says, this has no place on an official state license. In any state. Should be the state motto or nothing.

    December 11, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      True! My state has so many different license plates there was a bill recently introduced to stop them because the police were finding it increasingly harder to call in plates in a pursuit.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  3. Rynomite

    Ahh abortion. The great Republican mistake. Every aborted fetus is one less future vote for the democrats and one less future person dependant on social welfare. This silly issue totally runs counter to the more important economic agenda.

    December 11, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Anti Stupidity

      Very true, but what can be expected from a political party centered around an imaginary friend up in the clouds?

      December 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  4. Geoff

    Duh, This one was obvious

    December 11, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  5. JohnQuest

    It has always seemed odd to me, the same people that propose to be "pro-life" are the same ones that have no problems with the death penalty, or wars. Seems that they are holding two opposing world views in the heads at the same time (how is that not insane?)

    December 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • upside down

      What's the difference of being pro-abortion and antiwar?

      December 11, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Mitebite

      The death penalty is a punishment as the name implies. Is abortion the punishment for the unborn child ruining the freedom of or incoveniencing the parents?

      December 11, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Anti Stupidity

      They value unborn fetuses over human beings

      December 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Mitebite, if you think having a child is just an "inconvenience" for a 14-year-old, then I suggest you get a clue.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • JohnQuest

      upside down, no one is Pro-abortion, I work hard everyday to ensure less abortions. I believe that the decision is not mind to make, that it's between the woman, her dr, her family, and if she believes her God.

      Are you and those that oppose women right to choose willing (and able) to adopt all of those kids?

      December 11, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Coulro DeSouth

      While some abortion foes may support "the death penalty or wars", many do not. Your assertion is a strawman.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      Coulro. Not really. There are many ways that people lose life. The so-called pro-life crowd only ever take action about abortion.

      December 11, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  6. Dar

    Why dont we have the doctors take the live baby out of the mother and then hand the MOM a butter knife have have them start cutting the live baby up to kill it.
    Would that be murder?
    your thoughts please on wise people of choice.

    December 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why don't you go perform an experiment to answer your question, dip? Go do what you propose and see what happens to you.

      Idiot. A born person has rights that trump those of a fetus that isn't yet viable outside the uterus.

      Do you want the state to allow a woman to die rather than abort a fetus? Why not? If she has lesser rights, who cares if she dies as long as the fetus is carried to term?

      December 11, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Saraswati

      You're a crazy person. You asked for my opinion. I'd seek help.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Anti Stupidity

      Why don't you wise lifers get a social security card and a prepaid college tuition fund set up for your cherished fetuses? That's right, you can't. They're not people yet. Careful with your butter knife.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why should an idiot like Dar be careful with a butter knife? He could stick it through his own skull and it wouldn't touch a single lonely brain cell.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Blastocysticide is not the same thing as infanticide.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • bthumble

      My first thought upon reading your post was: "How nice that CNN allows the mentally challenged an opportunity to speak".

      December 11, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      Lol leave it to a religious nut to think we use butter knives.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Jen

      Probably wouldn't take too long as the 'baby' is about the size of the tip of my thumb.

      Actually, how about we take it out of the mother and you can adopt the thumb tip 'baby'. Oh wait...that wouldn't work for some reason....

      December 11, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  7. But, wait...

    Yeah, I'm not the biggest fan of these plates, but I'm concerned about the precedent this ruling sets. So, now, do we need "DON'T Spay or Neuter Your Pets" plates? Must the state of Ohio offer Michigan State plates to offset Ohio State fans? What about "Oklahoma is really not OK"?

    December 11, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • sparky

      Only if people with those viewpoints want those license plates. You can't preferentially allow one viewpoint and suppress the other.

      On the other hand, if no one wants a plate with the opposing viewpoint, then there's no conflict. You don't HAVE to make opposite license plates before anyone asks.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • FormerMarineSgt

      It's pretty simple – if you want a specialty plate for a potentially controversial topic, you have to allow the opposite position to be possible. If a state wanted a 'pro choice' plate, but didn't allow a 'pro life' plate, folks would be angry as heck. (can you imagine the front page story that Fox News would run in order to spin up the 'right wing faithful'?????)
      . Folks would demand the other plate be allowed immediately.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Bad anology, those are not differing philosophical world views, (people don't generally kill each other over them, and when they do we call them criminals not heroes).

      December 11, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Saraswati

      No, we don't need any of those plates because they should ALL be eliminated.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • J

      Not so...you are taking that one too far. The 'issue' of spaying and neutering pets is not considered a 'contentious' debate. Your example is not rooted in reality. You don't see people picketing outside the humane society or vet offices with signs advising people NOT to spay or neuter their pets – get real. On the other hand, what the Court is saying hear, is that the State MUST allow for both sides of an issue to be heard when it is REASONABLE that they would want to be hear or that they are voices are being heard in the public square – use your head.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      @ But, wait...
      The precedent this sets it.. everyone gets a voice or no one does. Is it really that difficult for you to understand?

      December 11, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Saraswati

      @J, actually there are several religious groups who oppose any action that might prevent the briningof a lifeintotheworld,from killing insects, to spaying animals,toeatingfruitsoffa plant thatmightreproduce. Just because a group is toosmalltospeakup,doesn't mean it isn't there and shouldn't be granted the same respect. Just get govt. out of thebusiness and we're all set.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  8. katieqbug

    You know what is sad about this situation with abortion? Unborn animals have more rights than unborn babies. If you don't believe me, check out the endangered species and how many projects and things that could benefit us have been halted because of some duck, turtle, bird, etc. nest and how it can't be disturbed.

    December 11, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • LinCA

      When people become an endangered species, you may have a point, until then you are just rambling.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Humanity most assuredly does not have a problem with numbers. There are too many people in the world!
      Those who decide to "be fruitful and multiply" are doing their species – and indeed all other species – a disservice.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Colt

      Humans aren't exactly in danger of going extinct; as a matter of FACT, we've overpopulated.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Madtown

      You bet Katie. Nothing benefits humanity more than a strip mall.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      @katieqbug
      You’re so right. I mean.. what is the total extinction of a species (caused by us) in comparison to removing what amounts to no more than a clump of cells? Then again I’m sure you believe it’s god’s will that those animals die out for our strip malls. But wait… wouldn’t that mean that every ‘child’ aborted is god’s will also? Yes, yes.. we have free will. So god must believe our right to chose is more important than intervening to save said ‘child’. Right?

      December 11, 2012 at 10:38 am |
      • katieqbug

        No, God gives us free will (that's in the Bible). God did say we will be judged by our actions/works, good and bad. God does not command us to follow Him and rather hopes people chose to follow Him. People are chosen to leave this Earth at different times for different reasons. I personally had a miscarriage which was one of the hardest things to go through. I know I will see that child again someday. Without faith and hope, what does one live for?

        December 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • LinCA

      @katieqbug

      You said, "No, God gives us free will (that's in the Bible). God did say we will be judged by our actions/works, good and bad. God does not command us to follow Him and rather hopes people chose to follow Him."
      If you feel that your imaginary friend has certain expectations for you, you are free to organize your life to try to accommodate it. But whatever you think your friend wants only applies to you. It should have no effect on anything anyone else does, or doesn't do.

      You said, "I personally had a miscarriage which was one of the hardest things to go through. I know I will see that child again someday."
      I'm sorry for your loss and wish you the best.

      You said, "Without faith and hope, what does one live for?"
      Unfounded superstitions aren't required for a full and healthy life.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  9. believe

    Typical stupid ruling, lauding a free speech victory when it is actually silencing the right of the majority to speak freely. The nonprofit, "Choose Life," could offer plates (or at least plate frames for around the plates) directly to customers, totally bypassing government, in states that adopt NC's dumb stance on the issue. Problem solved?!

    December 11, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      Oh, I see, you like tyranny.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Michael Means

      You're missing the point – the court would have not even seen the case had the state also allowed the pro-choice statement plate.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Merlin66

      Those who do not believe in abortions should not have one.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • nemajordude

      What about the right of the minority to speak freely?

      December 11, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Madtown

      You're right. Only a "majority" should have the right to speak freely.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Mike

      I must have missed the civics class that teaches that only the majority have a right to free speech (ignoring your underlying argument that the pro life camp is a majority). The ruling isn't an attempt to silence someone – it says that the govt cannot provide an avenue for one group to state its point of view while not providing an avenue for an opposing group. You are right – anyone can make and sell license plate frames, just like they do bumper stickers. But license plates are distributed by the state so this falls clearly on the state to offer plates with all points of view or no points of view, but it can't offer just some points of view.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • LinCA

      believe

      You said, "Typical stupid ruling, lauding a free speech victory when it is actually silencing the right of the majority to speak freely."
      So, in your ideal world only the majority gets to have a say? That's not quite how free speech works. Suppressing minority points of view is the exact opposite.

      Had the legislature also made pro-choice options available, this ruling might have gone differently. From the article, 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.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Saraswati

      It has not silences anyone's right to speak freely for exactly the reason you cite: you can always get a bumper sticker or plate frame to say anything you want. The problem with license plates is that they're always going to have a highly restricted and selected set of available opinions. Not to mention the fact that a lot of cops hate them and find it confusing to identify neighboring states plates in a lot of moving vehicle situations.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  10. ItsJustMe

    Why do people continue to believe that THEIR tax dollars pay for abortions??? It takes just a few clicks! You either pay in cash, or by health insurance. And for those in states like MA, state funded health care does NOT cover it. Please get informed, or stop commenting on things you know nothing about.

    December 11, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • katieqbug

      ItsJustME, you are sadly mistaken. There are 15 states where Medicaid covers abortion. Last I checked, Medicaid is funded by tax dollars.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      katie. But you're perfectly happy for your tax dollars to fight wars and assist insurgencies around the world? People die in wars as well. People die for all kinds of reasons mainly preventable, but we never hear the "pro-life" movement active in food security, road safety, water safety, drug safety, gun safety, etc. and that's because they're not pro-life they're anti-abortion.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  11. N2it

    Mfw, most pro lifers are pro war. Go figure...

    December 11, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • EStev

      But they hate the death penalty, because murder is murder.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • HedgeHog

      And most pro-choice are also against the death penalty. Kill the innocents, but don't kill the monsters...

      December 11, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Saraswati

      @EStev, the Catholics oppose the death penalty. Most pro-life protestant groups support it.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Mitebite

      The death penalty is not murder. If you hold some one against their will, it's kidnapping. We.punishment criminal by holding them against their will in jail. Get a dictionary and a.life.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      Abortion is not murder ether. Funny how that works. Seem the problem here is religious anti-abortion nuts misusing the word murder.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  12. Mr. Smart Guy

    So let's have the convicts whip ups some "Choose Death" license plates and everybody will be happy.

    December 11, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • EStev

      Exactly, you should be allowed to promote the death penalty.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Scott

      A typical moronic response from teh non-thinkers. I usually try to be more charitable to the fools but this response leaves little room for kindness. Maybe it was just reading about the so-called Choose-Life advertisements being put on coat hangers. Or that this same individual is male and doesn't have to worry about things like pregnancy on the same level that women do. Or maybe because I'm not suffering fools very well this morning...

      December 11, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  13. EStev

    Pro-life = against the death penalty?

    December 11, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  14. Brystel

    Great news – if only they would ban these plates in every state.

    December 11, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • SATCH

      GreatNews too. Gov't sponsored religious beliefs are wrong. In Florida, they have this but no alternative either. I hated the hypocrisy... hey buyt that usually is the Right Wing mantra

      December 11, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Seola

      Satch – that Kool-Aid is getting warm, you might want to finish it up. Not liking or believing in abortion has nothing to do with religious beliefs. I know pro-abortion Christians and anti-abortion Atheists, Agnostics and Pagans, etc. Sadly, people like you want to box the groups up and then condemn them which not only displays the hypocrisy but reality in which people like you don't see past the end of their noses.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Chris

      ban ALL these specialty plates. Sports teams, charities, whatever. The license plate should be just that; you can always plaster your car with stickers. Only it's just a cash-grab for the states and they'll never give up the revenue.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Chris,
      Exactly.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • nemajordude

      Seola, there may be a few "liberals" who are anti-abortion, and there may be a few "conservatives" who are pro-abortion, but this is an issue largely drawn upon ideological and religious lines. Sorry, but that's the way it is.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • nemajordude

      Pro abortion rights, I should have said, or pro choice.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      @ Seola
      It’s well established “pro-life’ and” Choose-life” were coined by religious groups. Given enough humans, with any number of topics and I will show you rare examples of every position. That doesn’t change the original or majority view. You guys are getting desperate.

      Myself for example, I’m pro-choice and pro-gun rights. (I believe in personal freedom above dogma)

      December 11, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      @ Seola
      It’s well established “pro-life’ and” Choose-life” were coined by religious groups. Given enough humans, with any number of topics and I will show you rare examples of every position. That doesn’t change the original or majority view. You guys are getting desperate.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  15. bajasand

    And yet ,I as a non parent by choice have to pay for all the unwanted children- for most of their lives.
    Who is going to raise these children to be responsible self reliant citizens. No one. Not to mention
    over population that causes so many problems.

    December 11, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • peter piper

      it should be the parents, but the society allows them to reproduce like animals, with no regard for their actions. I say sterilize the welfare queens and the baby daddy's, make them pay the price for their indiscretions. I'm sick of paying for everyone else. especially ILLEGALS...just watch a MAURY show someday, when these losers take 10-15 dna tests and still can't find the father, bunch of animals.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Peter – perhaps the fundiot nutters should drop their opposition to birth control and real sèx ed?

      December 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      RTL don't care what happens once the babies are born. They never have. Just look at the defunding of education and social programs.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • CLC

      Exactly! What about the hundreds of thousands of children languishing in our dreaded foster care system?! Former Mass. Rep. Barney Frank once stated, "Those who oppose abortion are pro-life only up to "the moment of birth." I ask anyone who asserts themselves as "pro-life," how many foster children do you have living with you right now? How many hours of your time to you spend volunteering at, say, a group home for children without permanent parents? How does one support the death penalty, vigorously, then, in the next breath, claim to be "pro-life?" We're in a sad place when the life of a fetus is more important than that of a living being.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  16. Norm

    They could offer a pro-choice plate, but they won't. Because that doesn't further their goal. Fascist government control of your body is their goal. Forced birth to create more wage slaves for the corporations is their goal.

    December 11, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  17. Hank Eder

    Mitch Gillespie ought to put his attention on issues that will actually help the state, such as restoring funds to education, which were gutted by Republicans in the legislature. Repealing the judge's decision about license plates is typical political grandstanding. Such a waste of time and energy.

    December 11, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  18. jp81

    We do not need to promote baby making
    it happens anyway
    it kind of creepy – it reminds me of "lebensborn" in facist europe
    that kind of thinking is why my parents and others had to leave

    December 11, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • EStev

      My parents left because of the many people that were killed. If there is any "pro life" it should be against the death penalty.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  19. Geckowise

    Good, that is the correct court ruling.

    December 11, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  20. Zeibodique

    CHOOSE LIFE...Only till the child is born, than ignore it for the rest of it's life. "Why should I worry about him/her, it's not my child" That's the way Lifers run. Stay unclassy Lifers, it's your style.

    December 11, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Zirbert

      Ignoring that your implication is completely untrue for the moment, I have a question:

      If I don't kill you today, does that mean I have to buy you lunch tomorrow (and for the rest of your life)?

      This is the logical conclusion of the "don't oppose abortion unless you're willing to support all children after they're born" argument.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Saraswati

      @zirbirt, that's only the logical conclusion to you because you assume that an embryo is the same thing as a living human.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
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