Supreme Court deferral means 'Choose Life' plates still unconstitutional in S. Carolina


The Supreme Court declined yesterday to consider a case about whether some states may offer license plates with pro-life messages, reported the Associated Press.

As a result, justices have let stand a lower court ruling that South Carolina's license plates, with the slogan "Choose Life," are unconstitutional.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va., ruled that they violate the First Amendment because abortion rights supporters were not given a similar forum to express their beliefs. The 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction also includes Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Since 2001, South Carolina drivers could purchase the pro-life plates for $70, and all revenue was directed toward local crisis pregnancy programs. But the Supreme Court’s deferral means that South Carolina will either have to eliminate the “Choose Life” plates or begin offering plates with pro-abortion messages.

Planned Parenthood of South Carolina had filed the lawsuit against the state. The state argued the plates are "government speech" that entitles them to allow a particular viewpoint without an obligation to include dissenting views, reported the Associated Press. Otherwise, the state would have to allow countering views to license plates touching on any public policy matter, such as "God Bless America," it said.

The state government also argued that the plates express the state’s preference for childbirth over abortion.

The Supreme Court deferral places the 4th Circuit Court decision in conflict with another lower court decision on the same issue that approved the plates.

A 5th Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans decided in December 2002 to allow the plates in the states within its jurisdiction: Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

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