North Carolina Choose Life License Plates Blocked by Judge

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 29, 2011   |   7:48PM   |   Charlotte, NC

A federal judge blocked the Choose Life license plates in North Carolina on Monday after they became the subject of a lawsuit from the pro-abortion ACLU.

The North Carolina affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the plates because it complains there is not a pro-abortion alternative available for drivers who want to purchase plates supporting abortion. The group filed its case on behalf of state resident Sue Holliday, according to an AP report, and she says she doesn’t oppose the Choose Life plates, she just wants to be able to express her opinion favoring abortion.

The lawsuit claims the new plates abridge the free speech rights of pro-abortion state residents and the ACLU has filed a request for an injunction preventing the sales of the plates, which generate $15 for adoption agencies.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge James Fox granted the preliminary injunction the ACLU sought. The judge will ultimately issued a decision on the constitutionality but, whatever he decides, an appeal to the federal appeals court that struck down similar plates in South Carolina is expected.

Barbara Holt, the president North Carolina Right to Life, told in response to the lawsuit: “Pro-life groups worked for years to get a Choose Life Specialty Plate through the General Assembly.  There is nothing to prevent the individuals who are suing the state from putting forward the same effort to get a plate of their own.”

The House voted 68-44 to give the legislation its final approval. The bill would authorize dozens of new specialty plates, including the Choose Life plate, that require an extra $25 fee to purchase — with $15 going to pregnancy centers that provide women with abortion alternatives for each plate sold in the state.

During the legislative process, lawmakers rejected multiple attempts to add a “Respect Choice” license plate supporting abortion.

Carteret County Republican Rep. Pat McElraft told legislators the plates will raise money for Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship and “save some babies’ lives.” However, some Democrats opposed the measure because they didn’t want licence plates becoming a forum for debate on abortion.

Bobbie Meyer, the state director of Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, told LifeNews: “North Carolina is the only state in the southeast that refuses to let its citizens purchase the choose life license plate. For eight years the legislation for the choose life plate has been denied a vote even though more than 130 other plates have been approved.”

“The choose life license plate has already raised over 12 million dollars in the states that allow them thereby helping mothers and their families,” she added. “Here in NC there are 85 pregnancy care centers who last year saw over 46,000 women and children.”

Despite popular support for the plate, Planned Parenthood officials strongly opposed it.

“These license plates are specialty plates that bear an anti-choice message,” the group said in an email obtained asking its members to urge legislators to vote no.

Planned Parenthood complained that the funds from the plate will go to pregnancy centers that provide women with real choices and tangible help in an unplanned pregnancy. As the abortion business claimed, the centers “promise comprehensive medical advice and services but deliver anti-choice propaganda.” Planned Parenthood also complained it would be ineligible to receive funds because it does abortions while the plate’s goals are to promote adoption and helping women in crisis pregnancies.

The approval of the Choose Life plate comes after significant hard work from pro-life groups in the state, including North Carolina Right to Life and North Carolina Pro-Life Democrats.

The Tar Heel State is home to over 100 specialized license plates promoting everything from Save the Sea Turtle to NASCAR driver Greg Biffle. The Choose Life tag was tied up in the Transportation Committee for five years and now, residents may be closer to having tags available.

Ultimately, the Choose Life plates across the nation have raised over $8.7 million and over 400,000 plates have been sold or renewed in the 17 states that currently have the plate available.

NC Right to Life, the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Charlotte and Raleigh, NC Baptist Association, Russ Amerling, National Director of Choose Life license plates, The Family Policy Council of NC, Civitas NC, The Christian Action League, and NC Pro-Life Democrats all support the plates. There are currently 80 pregnancy centers across the Tar Heel State that served more than 46,000 women, men and families last year.

Brevard graphic artist Deborah Vernon Scott designed the proposed North Carolina plate, which depicts mountains and waves separated by two children’s faces on a yellow background. The phrase “Choose Life” is emblazoned in red at top.