Abortion-rights activists take their fight to the streets?—?literally.
Two new states recently introduced legislation asking to include abortion messaging on car license plates.
Slate reports Nebraska voted to advance a bill that would allow residents to purchase “Choose Life” license plates; in California, Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson introduced a bill that would require the state to offer license plates reading “California Trusts Women.” George Tiller, a late-term abortion doctor murdered by a pro-life extremist in 2009, reportedly used “Trust Women” as a motto.
If California and Nebraska vote to pass these bills, they will join 29 other states in providing specialty license plates with abortion messaging. All 29 states currently offer “Choose Life” plates, but only Virginia offers a pro-choice alternative. In order for California to begin manufacturing the plates, 7,500 drivers will have to pony up $50.
Abortion is a fraught issue and deciding which side gets to put what on their license plates is proving to be both divisive and confusing. In May 2015, the Court of Appeals ruled that New York could exclude pro-life messaging on specialty license plates, calling it “patently offensive.” That same year, a federal district court ruled that North Carolina’s decision to produce only pro-life plates violated the First Amendment. The court ordered the state to represent both sides equally.
The central issue regarding license plates is whether their messaging represents the government or the individual. In June 2015, the Supreme Court finally got a chance to make a definitive ruling on the subject: The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans had asked Texas to make a license plate featuring a Confederate flag. Texas refused and SCV sued, saying the state was violating their Constitutional right to free speech.
In their ruling on the case, the Supreme Court voted 5–4 that license plates represent “government speech” and that individual citizens cannot force the state to issue plates with specific designs. This decision compelled the court to vacate the lower court’s previous ruling mandating that North Carolina manufacture plates representing both sides of the abortion argument. As a result, to this day, North Carolina only offers pro-life plates.
Fifteen states that offer “Choose Life” plates use a portion of the proceeds to benefit pro-life groups and crisis pregnancy centers, which advise women against seeking abortions.
If the Nebraska bill passes, the plates will raise money for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, an organization that provides financial assistance to pregnant women and families. And that’s something everyone can get behind, regardless of what’s inscribed on their license plate.