Planned Parenthood confronts Kryptonite

Posted: Sep 08, 2001 12:00 AM
Once again we have a story in the news revealing that certain so-called pro-choice groups are as fearful of the choice for life as Superman is of Kryptonite or vampires are of crosses. It appears that Planned Parenthood of South Carolina has its corporate nose out of joint over a recently enacted state law allowing the state to issue motor vehicle license plates bearing the message "Choose Life." The law, signed by Governor Jim Hodges last Sunday, does not mandate the installation of these plates, but merely makes them available, along with other specialty plates (such as NASCAR), for selection by motorists who want them. Planned Parenthood apparently tried to get the South Carolina legislature to offer plates saying "Choose Choice," but, in exercising its legislative prerogative, it chose not to do so. Failing at that, the abortion-promoting organization has resorted to the courts. Planned Parenthood tried to convince a federal judge that in issuing license plates featuring the words "Choose Life," the state will violate the free-speech guarantees of the First Amendment by providing a forum for one political view but not another. The group's attorney, Peter Murphy, said, "The fact that only one choice is being provided by the state is exactly what's wrong." That's interesting. Do the choicers really want to go down this road? Are they truly contending that a state cannot make statements on political (or other) issues? Don't states often make statements when they pass laws? For example, if a state enacts a law authorizing capital punishment for certain crimes, is it not making a statement that capital punishment is justifiable? It is absurd to attempt to stretch the First Amendment to the extreme that it precludes a state from taking official positions. Taken to its logical conclusion, such a concept would render a state entirely impotent. The free-speech guarantees in our state and federal constitutions are designed to prevent the state and federal governments from restricting speech. How does the issuance of specialty plates endorsing God's greatest creation even remotely suppress speech? Perhaps it would be a different story if the state also passed a law prohibiting bumper stickers carrying the pro-choice or pro-abortion message. That arguably could chill speech. But as it stands now, those who have an aversion to the pro-life stance are free to plaster their vehicles with choice stickers. And they're free to argue their case in the public square, on the radio, on television, in their homes, in church, in the legislature and in their pro-abortion counseling services to pregnant women. So don't talk to me about speech being chilled – it's just nonsense. Maybe Planned Parenthood is confusing its constitutional principles. Isn't it trying to use the reasoning employed in Establishment Clause cases (loosely, those involving separation of church and state)? In those kinds of cases – as opposed to Free Speech cases – the state can be called to task for taking a position that promotes one religious view over another. Planned Parenthood obviously understands that it can't sustain a challenge of this law on Establishment Clause grounds. But isn't it showing its true colors by making analogous arguments under the Free Speech clause – exhibiting its nearly religious zeal against dissemination of the pro-life message? You think I'm overstating the case? Well, I remind you that the state plate does not in any way propose to remove anyone's right to choose – it is just encouraging people to exercise their choice in a particular way. If it is choice, rather than abortion, Planned Parenthood is seeking to protect, the "choose life" message should not bother it. Planned Parenthood objects that the $70 fee for these specialty plates is to be used to support private non-profit crisis-pregnancy programs, but may not go to any agency or organization that "provides, promotes or refers for abortion." So what? That still does not violate anyone's Free Speech rights. The fees are paid not by the state, but by the motorists who choose, of their own volition, to order the specialty plates. If strident pro-choicers want to fund organizations that do abortion referrals, such as Planned Parenthood, let them buy their pro-choice bumper stickers and donate the balance of their $70 to Planned Parenthood. The state of South Carolina deserves plaudits for jealously guarding its own sovereignty by resisting the oppressive pressure of political correctness and making a bold statement celebrating life.