Supreme Court Allows Pro-Life Illinois Citizens to be Muzzled on Choose Life Plates

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 7, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Supreme Court Allows Pro-Life Illinois Citizens to be Muzzled on Choose Life Plates

by Mailee Smith
October 7, 2009 Note: Mailee Smith is an attorney for Americans United for Life, a pro-life legal group that focuses on national and state legislative matters.

On the heels of recent surveys demonstrating that a majority of Americans are increasingly identifying themselves as pro-life, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed a lower court’s decision muzzling the free speech rights of pro-life citizens in Illinois to stand.

The State of Illinois has done nothing less than censor its pro-life citizens. Despite the fact that almost half of the states in the nation offer “Choose Life” license plates — with another 14 states working on them — the people of Illinois have been silenced.

The case was Choose Life Illinois v. White. Even after Choose Life Illinois submitted over 25,000 names on its petition for “Choose Life” plates and complied with every written guideline provided in Illinois law, Secretary of State Jessie White said that he had no authority to issue the plates, claiming instead that the authority rested with the legislature alone.

An interesting claim — since the Illinois statute said no such thing. In fact, during the course of litigation, the Illinois legislature amended the applicable law to include a role for the legislature. In other words, the legislature saw that there was a hole in White’s claims, and they “patched it up” for him.

The real losers in this decision are not just Illinois motorists who wanted “Choose Life” plates — but also the adoption agencies, the homes for pregnant women, the pregnancy resource centers, and the unborn children those facilities seek to protect on a daily basis. These are the facilities whose actions really do reduce the number of abortions each year.

Proceeds from the license plates would have been funneled to facilities actively counseling and advocating for adoption.

But that’s okay, because there are still several license plates that Illinois citizens can choose. Pet lover? Illinois has a plate for you. A sheet metal worker? Ditto. Support youth golf? Illinois even has a plate for that.

In fact, Illinois offers 60 specialty license plates. It appears that as long as you don’t mention unborn life, your plate will be approved. And according to the Seventh Circuit, that’s not censorship. That’s just the state avoiding one particular issue that it doesn’t want to talk about.

Nope. No censorship there.

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