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S.C. 'Choose Life' license plates put on hold

By The Associated Press
11.20.01

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.


Update
S.C. official: 'Choose Life' is government, not private, speech
Attorney general makes claim in documents filed in Planned Parenthood lawsuit challenging state's license plates. 09.21.02

Previous
Planned Parenthood sues S.C. over new 'Choose Life' license plates
Attorney accuses state of violating First Amendment by providing forum for one political view without offering chance to express opposing beliefs. 09.05.01

Related

Abortion-rights group challenges Florida's 'Choose Life' plates

Federal lawsuit says process for distributing funds from tag sales violates church-state separation, free speech. 01.21.02

'Choose Life' plates opponents ask full appeals court to hear case
5th Circuit panel had sent case back to lower court with instructions to dismiss, saying plaintiffs didn't have standing to sue Louisiana. 04.16.02

Kansas governor nixes 'Choose Life' plates
Meanwhile, lawmakers revive effort to create similar tags in Oklahoma. 04.26.02

Abortion-rights activists criticize new Oklahoma 'Choose Life' plates
'By producing plates that are pro-life, the government is authorizing unconstitutional speech by opponents of abortion,' says Planned Parenthood representative. 05.25.02

6th Circuit allows Tenn. 'Choose Life' license plates
Appeals court overturns lower court ruling that tag illegally promoted only one side of abortion debate. 03.17.06

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