Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"Choose Life" License Plates

Can I just say - I love these license plates. I used to love pointing them out and saying, "There's an unconstitutional license plate!" but now I think the tides are changing. A Tennessee federal court has ruled that these license plates do not violate the First Amendment, even though proceeds from the specialty plates go to pro-life groups or adoption agencies.

I like the license plate tactic because there's little the pro-choice side can do about it. They can argue that the State doesn't promote both sides of the issue, but what's the alternative? Planned Parenthood tried to get a "Choose Choice" plate past the legislature, but as you can imagine, it didn't quite fly. As my First Amendment professor once said, "What are they going to do - have 'Choose Death' plates?" Right. That'll be a big seller. It just goes to show that the slogan "Choose Life" is pretty neutral.


At 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Wake me up before you go go..."

That's what I think of when I see "Choose Life." ;-)

At 7:44 PM, Blogger brad said...

You will definately want to read this: http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/lawjournal/issues/volume64/number3/hurst.pdf
or listen to this:
Some folks have spent a great deal of time and thought on this:

At 11:13 AM, Blogger nugatory said...

Why is it an "unconstitutional" license plate? That's the whole point: you get to choose. It's perfectly constitutional. I like the license plates, too. I think they pretty much agree with my ideal solution to the abortion problem: get people to choose not to have abortions, rather than prohibit them all together.

I think you might have intended a joke by the "unconstitutional" license plate quip, but I guess the joke's on me because I didn't get it.

At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Becky said...


I said "unconstitutional" because some courts had actually held that they were. No joke intended.

The people objecting to these plates don't want the state supporting a certain viewpoint on abortion. I don't think this argument works, because the State is allowed to say that it would like to promote "choosing life," but the argument is still made.

To address your "choosing" comments: in an ideal world everyone would choose not to murder other people and we wouldn't need laws against murder. However, there seems to be something inherently right about prohibiting murder by law. To someone who believes that the unborn child is a human being, allowing people to "choose" whether or not to kill their baby rings a little bit hollow.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger nugatory said...


You make a valid point by comparing abortion to murder, and I largely agree with you. However, there is one minor weakness in that comparison, which is why I think that the battle needs to be won on a different front. As you point out, laws prohibiting murder are inherently correct and we'd be hard pressed to find people opposed to them. Clearly, the same is not true for abortion because we can find roughly half the country who are opposed to abortion laws. Therefore, it cannot be said that laws prohibiting abortion are inherently correct. By the same token, they are not inherently incorrect. There is nothing inherent about them. I don't know how many people in the country would agree with us that an unborn child is a human being. I do know that it is a largely Judeo-Christian belief, and I do know that very many people disagree. I firmly believe in the separation of church and state (for an example of problems associated with the failure to maintain this separation, see the Middle East). Hindus believe eating any meat is murder; can you imagine that law being enforced here?

In my view, the best way to eliminate abortion is not to ban it (that clearly won't work, else we'd have no Roe v. Wade decision in the first place), but to create a socio-economic atmosphere where women will not feel so desperate that think they need to get one. Better medical care programs for poor mothers and children, spending more resources to encourage adoption as the preferred and responsible option rather than a cop-out, and helping to ease the stigma of the unwed pregnancy. These efforts bring about a solution that preserves life and maintains the church/state barrier. People will continue to have sex, will get pregnant and as long as society judges them for having sex and getting pregnant, they will want to have an abortion. Likewise, if a poor person gets pregnant and cannot afford to have a healthy baby, as long as there is no safety net in place (in terms of social services) the poor person will want to have an abortion. If we eliminate the reasons why people want to have abortions in the first place, we do more to stop them from taking place. (I was thrilled to discover that Notre Dame adopted this approach and stopped expelling students who got pregnant.)

No law will please everyone. I think you'll find very few people who actually like abortion. I imagine it's a very painful decision to make. If we focus our efforts on helping the individuals rather than on changing the law, we'll find a compromise that is more successful and likely to be more favored.

At 9:43 PM, Anonymous ASH said...

said: "In my view, the best way to eliminate abortion is not to ban it (that clearly won't work, else we'd have no Roe v. Wade decision in the first place), but to create a socio-economic atmosphere where women will not feel so desperate that think they need to get one."

I just want to say that I support proper burial for deceased horses. Beating dead ones is inhumane and unproductive. I bet a lot of moral problems would go away if we threw money at them.

At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think Nugatory was just talking about "throwing money" at problems. Yeah, money is part of it. But reducing the stigma of single motherhood? That's not a money thing. Better medical care? Yes, money is involved in that, but I don't see how trying to ensure that all children have proper medical care is the equivalent of "throwing money" at a problem.

I think the issue that Nugatory is hitting on is that right now, many women who have unplanned pregnancies feel completely alone and don't think they can do it. It's the social structure that creates those feelings of isolation that needs to change.


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