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Supreme Court Asked To Review N.C. 'Choose Life' License Plates Law

Supreme Court Asked To Review N.C. 'Choose Life' License Plates Law

July 16, 2014 — Republican leaders in the North Carolina Legislature have petitioned the Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court ruling barring the state from issuing antiabortion-rights license plates, the AP/Raleigh News & Observer reports (Biesecker, AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 7/14).

In 2011, state lawmakers approved the "Choose Life" plates but rejected proposals for plates with messages backing abortion rights. For each plate sold, $15 would go to not-for-profit crisis pregnancy centers that oppose abortion rights. However, the state never manufactured any of the plates because of the legal dispute.

Legal Background

In February, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court ruling that it is unconstitutional for North Carolina to offer license plates with the message as the state does not also offer plates that support abortion rights (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/18).

Although North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) defended the law in federal court, he declined to appeal the 4th Circuit ruling. In an email to North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) and state Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger (R) in April, Chief Deputy Attorney General Grayson Kelley urged the lawmakers not to pursue further appeals.

Instead, Kelley urged Tillis and Berger to draft new legislation "as an efficient way to resolve the issues." He also noted that the 4th Circuit previously struck down a similar law in 2004 and that the Supreme Court at that time refused to review the case (AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 7/14).