The backside of a car has long been a platform for political expression. (“Don’t Blame Me — I’m From Massachusetts,” anyone?) In the past, that came mainly in the form of bumper stickers. More recently, states have given motorists the choice of having a statement fixed to their license plates (“Taxation without representation,” for example, in Washington D.C.). But when North Carolina legislators offered drivers the chance to choose license plates with a pro-life message but not a pro-choice one, the lawmakers were restricting free speech. A federal judge was right to block the anti-abortion plates last week.
The First Amendment doesn’t let the government pick the viewpoints that can and can’t be spoken in public. That’s essentially what North Carolina was trying to do. The specialty plates authorized by the state legislature weren’t just about abortion — others carried pro sports logos and veterans group badges. But while lawmakers approved the “Choose Life” plate, they rejected an option for drivers to display a pro-choice plate.