North Carolina's number plate abortion debate

The state of North Carolina has about 100 different specialty plate designs, allowing citizens to use their license plate to proclaim their love for square dancing, NASCAR, or even watermelon. North Carolinians against abortion can now share their views in traffic jams, since the General Assembly passed a proposed license plate that features the slogan “Choose Life” earlier this year. Pro-choice drivers who want to display their views on their car are out of luck, their licence slogans rejected by the General Assembly.

The North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit against the state on 8 September 2011, calling for the license plate to be blocked because it violates the First Amendment, as it only allows for the representation of one perspective. Six amendments were proposed to the bill, adding a plate which had a messages such as “Respect Choice”. According to Katherine Lewis Parker, legal director of the NC chapter of ACLU, the decision to only approve the pro-life message is unconstitutional because it provides “a forum to one side of the argument”.

The specialty plate was approved by the legislature on 18 June, and signed into law on 30 June. In a statement, the ACLU said that they were suing “on behalf of North Carolinians seeking a specialty license plate that supports a woman’s right to reproductive freedom”. Republican Mitch Gillespie, who had promoted the anti-abortion plate, has dismissed the ACLU suit, telling the Raleigh News & Observer that the union is “an evil liberal organization to try to appease its liberal base.”