Pro-Life License Plates In South Carolina Ruled Unconstitutional

Jan 03, 2003 02:46 PM EST

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina's "Choose Life" auto license plates were deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge. Judge William Bertelsman ruled that the state law that established pro-life plates is discriminatory since it does not provide a forum promoting the views of abortion rights supporters.

The South Carolina attorney general's office said it would appeal the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of appeals.

"We're hopeful we're going to win in the end," said spokesman Robb McBurney.

Sen. Mike Fair, R.-Greenville, who led the effort in the South Carolina House to establish the plate, called the decision another case of judges "legislating from the bench."

The attorney general contends the law as constitutional because the message on the license plate demonstrates a statewide preference for childbirth over abortion; the license plate offers the public view of the whole of South Carolina. However, Bertelsman said the plate is a private speech since selecting the plate is an individual decision.

The plates, if implemented, would have cost $70, with proceeds going to help fund crisis pregnancy centers.

Six other states - Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Louisiana have approved similar pro-life plates. The ruling in South Carolina came less than a month after the U.s. Supreme Court refused to review a decision permitting Louisiana's "Choose Life" license plate law to stand. The Court, on Dec. 2, rejected the appeal by abortion rights advocates of a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, that allowed the 1999 state law to stand.

By Pauline C.