CHARLESTON, S.C. Planned Parenthood of South Carolina won a request in federal court yesterday to prevent the state from making “Choose Life” license plates.
U.S. District Judge Patrick Michael Duffy issued the preliminary injunction, which remains in effect until the case is heard next year.
“We are very pleased with today’s ruling and remain optimistic that the law creating these license plates will be found unconstitutional,” said Chris Jueschke, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood in South Carolina.
Attorney General Charlie Condon, who has charged women with abuse to their unborn children for using cocaine during pregnancy, said he was disappointed with the court’s decision. He also has vowed to fight the suit in the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.
“I can’t believe that anyone would object to this,” the Republican gubernatorial candidate said. “South Carolina wanted to be able to have an uplifting message of ‘Choose Life’ on license plates that South Carolinians would choose to have.”
Gov. Jim Hodges signed a law allowing the state to issue “Choose Life” plates in September. Planned Parenthood sued after lawmakers refused to offer plates with an abortion-rights message.
Planned Parenthood can petition the General Assembly for its own license plate, Condon said.
Columbia attorney Peter L. Murphy, who represents Planned Parenthood, said the law violates the First Amendment because it regulates which opinions can be expressed on specialty plates.
“In creating this license plate availability, the state is in effect creating a forum for people to present their views on the abortion issue. The state is allowed to do that,” he said. “What the state is not allowed to do is discriminate against those whose point of view it doesn’t agree with.”
Kenneth P. Woodington, who represents the South Carolina attorney general’s office, argued the state is not creating a public forum with the plates. The specialty tags are issued only to motorists who choose to sport them, Condon said.
“Choose Life” plates would cost $70 every two years.
Money garnered from the plates would support private, nonprofit crisis-pregnancy programs. But organizations that provide or refer to abortions could not access the funds.
“Planned Parenthood would be punished for exercising their constitutional right of talking about abortion,” Murphy said.