Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Honk If You Love Babies

The Supreme court has let stand a ruling which will finally let pro-lifers in Arizona obtain "Choose Life" license plates:

An anti-abortion group has won its long legal fight to force Arizona to issue ``choose life'' license plates, and the proposed new plates could be available to the group's members within months.

The U.S. Supreme Court is leaving in place an appeals court ruling in favor of the Arizona Life Coalition.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that the state commission on license plates violated the group's constitutional right to free speech by turning down its application.

You'd think this kind of thing would be a no-brainer, wouldn't you? Unless we're going to consider the phrase "Choose Life" to be hate speech, obscene, or otherwise unprotected speech then the pro-aborts out there are just going to have to get used to the idea that they're going to encounter that phrase.

But if you do a search on the "Choose Life" license plate controversy, you'll run into total idiocy like this:

Perhaps some of you readers don't know anything about this ruckus. You might live in some lovely civilized place -- say, California, where both I and the 9th Circuit live -- in which case you've probably never seen one of these plates. Permit me to enlighten you. They're yellow. They have a cute child's drawing of a boy and a girl on them. And they say "Choose Life" in a child's scrawl. Then there are your license plate numbers. As if the state endorses all of this. [...]

We have specialty plates here in California. I own one myself. It says, "Yosemite National Park," and my annual fee goes to the Yosemite Foundation. I had other options, too. Real controversial stuff. There's Lake Tahoe Conservancy. Also, California Coastal Commission (aka Save the Whales). And Firefighters. And the Child Health and Safety Fund, which goes toward child injury prevention. In other words, every California specialty plate offers a message you can be sure that California, as a state, sanctions on some level. You can tell by its offerings that California wants to preserve the health of its whales, its lakes, its mountains, its firefighters, and its kids. What California doesn't do is provide a state-sponsored platform for a moral argument.

When Arizona rejected the Choose Life group's application, it said the state was concerned that people would come to the conclusion that Arizona had endorsed the plate's anti-abortion message. And since the plate is a means to funnel funds to a special-interest group, Arizona can hardly be blamed for wanting to avoid the appearance it had chosen sides in such a divisive debate.

What the liberal author of the above piece of breathtaking ignorance doesn't realize is that the courts were looking at the facts, which were these: the state could either allow all non-profit groups access to these specialty plates, or they could allow none--but what they most emphatically could not do was create the impression that the state approved of some groups over others, or that only state-approved or state-sponsored groups could create the plates. Thus, the very thing the author whines about--what, are people supposed to believe the State approves of life, babies, and adoption?--is exactly the opposite of what the courts were saying: that the state's offering of these specialty plates was in no way an endorsement by the state of each group's message, nor was there any room, from a free speech perspective, for that kind of endorsement even to be implied.

All the state could legally do was set certain standards for the groups applying for the plates; any group that met the requirements could then request a specialty plate under the same procedure that any other group had to follow. Once the "Choose Life" group met state requirements the rest was supposed to be automatic; the state didn't get to decide after the fact that only state-endorsed speech could show up on the specialty plates.

It's enlightening to realize that the very idea of these plates, of life for unborn babies, and of adoption infuriates some people so much that they'd support censorship of the message, especially given that leftists are usually such an anti-censorship bunch. But I think what really burns them is that there hasn't been a successful campaign to challenge the message of these plates; only Montana has Planned Parenthood plates (and they don't sell nearly as many as the pro-life variety) while Hawaii has a Planned Parenthood decal you can affix to your plate (which will save you a lot of time wasted in idle chit-chat at any local sleazy bar, I bet). But in general, no plates with the proposed and incoherent "Choose Choice" design have been offered for sale anywhere, let alone more honest ones like "Choose Abortion" or perhaps a simple design featuring a smiling baby with a big red "X" drawn across her face.

Let's face it: support for moms and babies, support for adoption, and support for life in general is a message a lot of people are proud to put on their cars in the form of a license plate. The radical pro-abortion fanatics out there who are angry that they don't have their own version of these license plates should realize that it's not the fault of the medium, but the message.

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