On June 18th of this year, the North Carolina General Assembly ratified H.B. 289– a bill that created 29 new specialty license plates that will be available through the N.C. DMV. One of these new specialty plates is one that reads “Choose Life” and the proceeds from these plates will go to crisis pregnancy centers in the state. These license plates are not a new idea they exists in over half the states in the U.S. and in and of themselves really don’t pose much trouble. I disagree with the sentiment, but I support the right to express it so I see no reason to oppose the license plates. The plates themselves are not what give me pause.
When Virginia law makers passed their version of the “Choose Life” plate, pro-choice advocates rallied and got a pro-choice alternative that reads “Trust Women, Respect Choice” created. The proceeds from this plate go to Planned Parenthood. So even in the state with the most extreme TRAP laws to-date, they allowed the creation of a pro-choice alternative, thus honoring freedom of speech. Pro-choice advocates in the North Carolina Assembly tried six times to get a pro-choice alternative added but each time conservatives shot them down. In a bill that creates 29 new plates, they really couldn’t be bothered to pass an amendment that would add one more? No, this was clear and intentional bias to support a pro-life agenda and that is where the problem comes in. They censored the pro-choice community’s right to express their beliefs.
The ACLU of North Carolina caught wind of the censorship occurring by the legislature and decided to step in and on Sept 8th they filed suit against the state saying that “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.”
In South Carolina, they attempted the same thing. They created a “Choose Life” plate and refused to allow a pro-choice alternative. The ALCU sued against it and the 4th Circuit Supreme Court (the same that will preside over the case in North Carolina) determined that the state of South Carolina was censoring free speech by not allowing the pro-choice option. The court required that they either provide a pro-choice alternative or stop offering the “Choose Life” option. They decided to stop offering the plate all together. I wonder what North Carolina will do?