State can't choose views

North Carolina pro-life license plates wrong to offer one side of debate

Most folks know by now that this is an ardently pro-life page. We believe fetuses never grow into anything else other than little human beings, and that all innocent souls have an inviolable right to life.

Without the suspension of reason and logic, it’s unclear how one can reach any other conclusion. And we’ll never understand how the law can sanction anything else than the protection of unsullied human life.

It’s no secret that those who believe in the sanctity of human life would want to find ways in the law to protect it.

But being pro-life is also about being pro-education. We believe that the more people know about fetal development and abortion, the more likely they, too, will become pro-life.

So we appreciate that pro-lifers want to spread the message on state license plates. Particularly when you’re stopped in traffic, a dispatch on the back of a car can be worth a massive billboard. That’s why you see so many bumper stickers.

Yet, sometimes the most closely held principles run head-on into each other.

Such is the case with the pro-life license plates that North Carolina lawmakers made available to the public. A federal judge recently ruled the plates are unconstitutional because the state is, in effect, choosing to promote a single viewpoint – pro-life – over another: pro-choice.

As unrepentantly pro-life as this page is, we don’t have a problem with the ruling.

The reason: When it comes to the government, we sure as heck don’t want it regulating speech or picking winners or losers.

It’s a little unseemly to begin with – using state-issued plates to spread what are essentially political arguments. We’re much more comfortable with the school pride license plates.

But if states are going to allow messages
about abortion on their license plates, they can’t choose whose viewpoint is acceptable and whose is not.

“The state’s offering of a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice plate constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment,” the judge said.

Agreed.

The North Carolina legislature explicitly rejected pro-choice slogans for license plates when it approved the pro-life plate in 2011. That is, indeed, “viewpoint discrimination.”

The best solution might be to drop back and punt – and just decide not to allow license plates to be used as political placards. Motorists have plenty of other ways to speak their minds, as you’ve surely noticed.

But if a state is going to give someone a state-issued soapbox on an issue, the other side deserves one too.

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