'Choose Life' tags are on the way in spite of the Feds 

End Around

Last week, I received a press release from the S.C. Citizens for Life that detailed the group's success in adding a "Choose Life" license tag to the vast array of specialty plates offered by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

In case you didn't know, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand in 2005 a lower court ruling that banned the original Choose Life plate for violating the First Amendment because the General Assembly did not provide for plates expressing an opposing viewpoint.

But a year later, the General Assembly passed a law that would allow a not-for-profit entity to bypass legislative approval for a specialty license tag if the organization paid $4,000 up front or had 400 prepaid orders for the specialty plate.

I knew then it was merely a matter of time before you-know-who filed its paperwork, and I was not wrong when last Wednesday, Citizens for Life unveiled the new Choose Life tag at the Statehouse.

Holly Gatling, executive director of Citizens for Life, proclaimed, "It reflects the colors and symbols of our state and endorses the positive message that our state supports the right to life of unborn children and the protection of the medically vulnerable members of the human family."

Funny, she failed to mention the "medically vulnerable members of the human family" that make up the 1,015,265 children in South Carolina who currently live in poverty. I wonder why.

Anyhoo, the $4,000 startup fee was ponied up by the S.C. Baptist Convention, whose Public Policy Director Joe Mack told The Post & Courier, "I think people need to know that there are people concerned with the issue of life and that life starts at conception."

I think Mack is being more than a little disingenuous here as he and his ilk are not only targeting abortion, but also extending their reach to overturn Griswold v. Connecticut. Look it up; it won't kill you.

S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster was asked by the DMV for an opinion about the plates after receiving the paperwork from Citizens for Life. He said that the DMV "may not, consistent with the First Amendment, deny issuance of the specialty plate."

As an elected official, it's a win-win for the Republican McMaster without having to do any actual legwork. I wonder if these pro-life wingnuts realize they're being played, but then I digress.

What bothers me about these license plates isn't that I disagree with the supporters on abortion — I do disagree and have always been vociferously pro-choice — it's their my-way-or-the-highway mentality on the tags themselves.

I have yet to hear one sound argument justifying any advocacy license plates, let alone pro-choice options.

One of my favorite themed tags is from Pennsylvania. The tag supports wildlife and features a Bengal tiger. I was unaware there was such a population in the Keystone State.

To me, Ms. Gatling, Mr. Mack, et al., are in dogged pursuit of the imprimatur of the state for their opinion. I think that they've lost sight of what it means to formulate and possess an opinion. Convinced of the correctness of their cause, they are eager to impose that opinion upon the rest of the country.

I find this not only un-American and unconstitutional, but also one of the poorest displays of manners I've been unfortunate to witness, on the highway or off.

So, I would suggest that the powers-that-be consider this modest proposal that advocacy license plates be done away with entirely.

If you want to support the pro-life movement or the college of your choice or public school improvement initiatives or wildlife and fisheries management or state highway beautification or whatever, then buy a bumper sticker and plaster it next to your license plate.


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