North Carolina on Friday announced plans to appeal [text, PDF] a ruling finding "Choose Life" license plates unconstitutional. Judge James Fox of the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] in December that "[t]he State's offering a 'Choose Life' license plate in the absence of a pro-choice alternative constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment." With the ruling, he also issued a permanent injunction to ban the production of the controversial license plates. The state plans to appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website]. The challenge [JURIST report] was originally brought in September 2011 by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) [advocacy website]. ACLU-NCLF Legal Director Chris Brook commented [press release] in response to the announcement:
It's unfortunate that the state has chosen to prolong what is really a very clear-cut First Amendment issue. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has consistently ruled that any time the government creates an avenue for private speech, it cannot restrict that avenue to only one side of a contentious debate. This case is ultimately about the right of North Carolinians of all political beliefs to have equal access to avenues for the free expression of ideas, and we look forward to making our arguments before the Court of Appeals.The state's legislature has repeatedly refused license plates for pro-choice proponents, and denied six such amendments proposed to authorize an additional plate with sayings such as "Respect Choice."
Fox struck down the "Choose Life" license plates in December after issuing an injunction [JURIST reports] the previous month. Abortion [JURIST news archive] has remained a controversial issue in North Carolina. In June 2011 the Woman's Right to Know Act [HB 854 materials], which called for a 24-hour waiting period before receiving an abortion and requiring women to view an ultrasound of the fetus prior to the procedure was vetoed [JURIST report] by the state's governor. However, in July both the House and Senate [JURIST reports] voted to override the veto.