'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. Matthew

    I read the headline and I thought that ruling was ridiculous but after reading article it makes sense. You have to endorse both view points if needed.

    December 11, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  2. Gus

    choose life but support war and the death penalty

    December 11, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • G_Edwards

      Still baffles me why the Dems supported bombing Libyan civilians.

      December 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • John

      @G_Edwards, the same way that Republicans started two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      December 11, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Joe Tunon

      What if I choose life, but not war and the death penalty? Where's my political party? (Not a fan of our 2-package system)

      December 11, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Mark

      Gus, The only parts you conveniently leave out of your sarcastic statement is the background to why folks support CHOOSE LIFE and at the same time they vote for war in some cases and the death penalty. Abortionists choose the death penalty for a baby who has committed no crime or done anything wrong. That baby has not had a trial nor has been afforded an attorney or advocate on the baby's behalf. ALL DEATH ROW INMATES have had a choice to make, made it wrong and they have not only been afforded a trial but also an attorney. War is a violent disagreement and many times it can be avoided. There are times when it cannot be avoided. World War II is a great example of why we should declare war, Pearl Harbor, 6 million innocent Jews killed. We have also participated in wars we should not have and those are indefensible however, both sides of the aisle condoned those as well. If my history is correct, The Korean Conflict and the Vietnam conflict were from the PRO-CHOICE Democratic side while the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were begun by the Republican President and continued by the Democratic one! Not much wiggle room there. There's no conflict in doctrine, only facts left out of the WHOLE TRUTH SIR!

      December 11, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Michael

      Gus, not really a good arguement. There is a difference between killing an innocent human life, that had no control over the situation vs. someone who has been found guilty in a court of law and given due process for a horrific crime. They don't give some one the death penalty for theft. Typcially the death penalty is only assessed when that person is convicted of killing someone else. Also, someone who is on death row, is usually given multiple opportunites to appeal it.

      Secondly, as for war, this is also different. First of all, war is inevitable, unless you can get all of humanity at one time to say no violence or war (which is likely not to happen), then you have to be able to defend yourselves. As sad as it is when we lose one of our troops and we need to do everything we can to prevent loss of life, it is bound to happen and when the troops sign up to be in the army, they do so knowing that there is a possibility of being killed during war. Because wars are inevitable, I think that the goal should be to preserve as much life as possible, especially when it comes to civilian life. However, it is not always possible and while every life is precious and created by God. If the choices are either we don't do anything and a million people die, but if we take out our enemy and ten thousand die. You are forced to go with the lesser of evils. Not that the million's lives are better than the ten thousand, but if those are your choices, then you want to preserve life as much as possible.

      These are secenarios are different that abortion. That baby didn't ask to be put in the situation it is in. They didn't have any control of what the parents were doing, when they were doing it, or whether protection was used or not. Therefore to kill that baby is the taking of an innocent life, which will be dealt with by God.

      December 11, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  3. 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

    Seems like a good time and place to remind all that 70+% of all abortions in the USA are had by believers. If the various religious cults could get their members to simply follow their cult's rules, or the cult's supernatural being was a little stricter, the number of abortions would be dramatically reduced.

    With respect to license plates, how about the states only print the name of the state and the plate "number." Plate holders can then use a Sharpie (permanent or not) to write whatever message they want. Problem solved!

    December 11, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  4. G_Edwards

    Get rid of the "Kid's First" plate until we have an "Adult's First" one!!!!

    December 11, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  5. abnguy

    Easy solution the opposite of choose life is end life. Offer that as a pro-abortion alternative.

    December 11, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Gaunt

      Except you can't 'end life' when there is no life form present to be ended. Nothing dies because no life form ever lived.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • nadinesh

      Sadly that's the kind of juvenile reasoning that lost the election for you guys.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • tacc2

      I want that plate! But only if it has a picture of an aborted fetus as the backdrop.

      December 11, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  6. nadinesh

    Just another skirmish in the Republican battle against women!! When are these turkeys going to realize that they are now in America's rear-view mirror - and fading.....

    December 11, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Belisarius85


      Regardless of whether there is a War on Women or not, these license plates harm no one. If anything, they should reinforce the pro-choice side because it says "CHOOSE Life".

      December 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • sam stone

      How about one that just said CHOOSE, and let the reader decide for themselves?

      December 11, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Saraswati

      @sam is dead on. A "Choose" licenses plate would be the only one that would be unbiased...and totally meaningless. These people only come up with theidea this stuff is "right" because its their stuff. Makethem vote in a building withan Obama mural and they scream discrimination and oppression. You don't see anyone up north printing "Support Gay Marriage" plates even though most people there do, precisely because most outside the fundamentalist world understand that governmentisn't there to support your message of propaganda.

      December 11, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  7. Jean Sartre

    Where is the ACLU when it comes to the Bible?

    Everything that happens in GOVERNMENT must be SWORN on a BIBLE – a DISTINCTLY CHRISTIAN ARTIFACT – even in in our SECULAR COURTS!

    Where are all the other RELIGIONS REPRESENTED in our GOVERNMENT?

    We even had 3-presidents swear the OATH OF OFFICE on 2 BIBLES!

    December 11, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Tebojockey

      Perhaps because the people being sworn in are Christians and not another religious preference?

      December 11, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Gaunt

      No oath of office at the federal level requires swearing on a bible. numerous presidents have not sworn on the bible. This is a tradition not a legal requirement.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Guy

      Catch up. you no longer have to swear an oath on the bible, in a secular court, but can make an affirmation as to the truth of your statements. I for one would not hold an oath taken on the bible any more binding than taking an oath on Tom Sawyer.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  8. Ricke1949

    Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness or Death Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
    Perhaps judges just don't know the difference?

    December 11, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • G_Edwards

      "Death, Tyranny, and the Nanny State"

      December 11, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  9. humtake

    Instead of fighting the lawmakers to revote on the alternative, they went straight to the courts and sued. America, the Land of Litigation. The ACLU wouldn't know what to do if it weren't for frivolous lawsuits. I could care less if someone wants to get a plate that goes against what I think. Guess what, everyone thinks differently. The same people whining and crying about this are the same people who had parents who told them they were the most special little angel on the planet and reality doesn't apply to them.

    December 11, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • Jean Sartre

      Ye, but the GOVERNMENT should NOT be INVOLVED...

      December 11, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse



      December 11, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  10. Gus

    choose life then ship kid off to a GOP war!

    December 11, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • john

      I got sent to Afghanistan as part of OBAMA's surge!

      December 11, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      The Obama surge for Bush's war.....idiot. lol

      December 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  11. Saraswati

    If you want to express an opionion, buy a fri@@in bumper sticker. What is wrong with people that theythinkthis is OK for ANY controversial belief. This isn't the business of governments and is a pain in the ass for cops who have to memorize every one of these plates accross north america. Absurd.

    December 11, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Chip Smith

      A pain for cops? I'm sure that this is the least of their worries.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • nadinesh

      Well-said, Saraswati!! How DARE a state make a political bumper sticker out of their license plate! I imagine that close to half of North Carolinians are opposed - THE WOMEN!!!!

      December 11, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Chip, actually this is frequently cited as a problem by cops, especially inareas where there are a lotof cars from neighboring states:

      December 11, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  12. russ

    I'm a pro-choice person. But I like the idea of "choose life". I wish that was human rule number 1.

    December 11, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  13. sortakinda

    If the fetus isn't "alive," why does it have to be killed? "Pro-Choice?" Be honest-you don't care if it is alive. You were here first and you count more than anyone or anything else-if you don't want a baby, kill it is your solution.

    December 11, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Gaunt

      Of course it is 'alive', in the same way a spleen is alive. It is not, however, a life form. At least not until it achieves viability.

      There is no baby, there is a zygote, which is not a life form. Nobody is killed.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Avdin

      Viability is not the issue. The issue is the opposing world views. One says life begins at conception. If you hold that view you must declare that any sort of abortion is killing or murder. If on the other hand you set viability as the point of life in your world view then anything after viability is killing or murder but up until that point is only a choice.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      @ Avdin
      The “life begins at conception” is a new concept that people who ALREADY opposed abortion based on their religious (not scientific i.e. factual) sue to justify their position.

      December 11, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Alex Uribe

      @ Gaunt,

      Technically the idea that it is "not alive" is an opinion...

      I think what you are getting at is that the government does not recognize PERSONHOOD (ie the full weight of a person's rights) until viability. That is why the mother's rights are allowed to outweigh the rights of fetal life until the fetus' right becomes important enough (viability). That's why states are allowed to outlaw post-viability abortions.

      There are reasonable opinions that a fetus is in fact "alive" and not just like a spleen... For instance, at 40 days after conception, the fetus has a heartbeat... If that's not the most classic vital statistic/sign of life, I don't know what is. Furthermore, the fetus has a unique DNA, different from the mother or father. Also, science has proven that a fetus has senses and neural activity. Ie it can perceive and feel things like pain.

      So you can think it's not "alive"... Others can feel that an unborn human is indeed alive.

      December 11, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  14. Right for life

    So if NC offered a "Choose death" liscence plate, then it's koser?

    December 11, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Chip Smith


      December 11, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • G_Edwards

      How about, "Euthanasia Is Forever"?

      December 11, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • ganzai

      The point is the government has no business using taxpayer money to create licence plates for either side. Or for any political view for that matter.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Odin

      You cannot allow one opinion and restrict an opposing opinion. Free speech applies to everyone, even if you disagree with them.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Odin, no one is restricting your right to put out a bumper sticker privately. But the plates issued by the govt. will always be a limited set of approved opinions and therefore biased. It creates confusion in plate identification, promotes bias toward whatever the govt supports and costs millions in this kind of legal argument. The only reason for doing it is so that various groups can use it in a later legal maneuver saying "see, the government has officially supported X since 1999." There is no good argument ever from these people as to why they couldn't have bought a bumper sticker or plate frame. The very point is to force the govt to recognize their position. The govt caves, because in its greed for money over spent and uncollected, it previously allowed more innocuous plates as fundraisers.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Belisarius85


      Don't you have to pay for your license plate, and extra for the "special" license plates?

      I don't see how taxpayer money is being spent on this.

      December 11, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • ReallyFair&Balanced

      no, it would be Kosher......you jewishness is showing (not)

      it would only be Kosar if you were advocating for letting old Cleveland Browns QB's live.
      different deal. ask any Cleveland Browns fan.

      December 11, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  15. JJ

    License plates should not be used for political or religious statements. Isn't that what bumper stickers are for? This is such a slippery slope. What's next, "keep marriage between man and a woman", etc.? I like my NC plate just fine with a light house on it.

    December 11, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Odin

      Agreed. If a state wants to sell license plates with state landmarks, etc. to generate some additional state income, great. Otherwise, put it on a bumper sticker.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  16. Chip Smith

    I want a Choose Death plate.

    December 11, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  17. Gus

    I'm going to get: GOPSoreLosers

    December 11, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  18. Jason

    Why don't they just make one that says "Choose Coat Hangers"

    Who cares????!!!!! Make your own license plate for your own group.

    December 11, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Chip Smith

      Why do you assume I have hangers? I FOLD my clothes!
      Typical (insert stereotype)!

      December 11, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Thomas Ledbetter

      This is not about free speech. There are people reading this article and who are driving behind you have who have had abortions. There is nothing wrong with it. It isnt murder. It isnt killing a baby, and its hurtful for people to post 'coat hanger' references or put nasty license plates or stickers on the back of your car. If you dont believe in abortion, fine – dont have one. But shut the hell up and leave other people alone. What you are doing is abusive.There is nothing the slightest bit wrong with terminating a pregnancy - it happens *naturally* for crying out loud, and if you dont have a *brain* then you cannot experience any measure of conscience. Christianity is utter nonsense and doesnt even say a thing about abortion. Falwell started that crap in the 80s. 'People need to grow the hell up.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  19. Layla

    I live in Florida where we have "Choose Life" license plates. I hate seeing them because it is so biased. It was passed because the state said it wanted to show support its support to children and family. If that was the real case then the plate should have said something else.

    December 11, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Tebojockey

      Kudos to Florida for wanting to show support to children and family. Too bad they couldn't have done that for a certain boys' reform school within their borders where many boys had been murdered for failure to adapt and the books "cooked" and altered to show death from natural causes or disappearance as runaways.

      Florida is indeed kind to children and family. Time for that rotten orange to be burst and cleaned up.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Saraswati

      It's impressive that the lower the academic achievement in a state the more likely they are to think this kind of clearly biased BS is OK. Want to support families? Try...I don't know...supporting them?

      December 11, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  20. Mike D

    How about a license plate that is just a bunch of letters and numbers?

    December 11, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • sybaris


      December 11, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Mark

      Agreed. Or, perhaps, a bumper sticker.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:35 am |
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