The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear an appeal by pro-life groups in favor of “Choose Life” specialty license plates in South Carolina.

Controversial license plate.

The license plates were ruled unconstitutional by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case brought by Planned Parenthood.

The abortion provider filed the case because it found the message offensive.

In March 2004, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the plates violated the First Amendment because they gave a forum for pro-life advocates to present their views, but not abortion supporters.

“Planned Parenthood wants to silence any message preferring adoption over abortion,” said Mat Staver, president and general counsel of Florida-based Liberty Counsel, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

“The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear this case sends the wrong message to the states as adoption, not abortion, is in the best interests of women, children, and the state of South Carolina,” Staver said.

Liberty Counsel represented several “Choose Life” license plate owners and crisis pregnancy centers in a case that upheld the constitutionality of the plates in Florida.

Staver insists the South Carolina “Choose Life” plates “represent a valid expression of the state’s longstanding preference for childbirth over abortion and is a valid exercise of government speech.”

Purchasers of the license plates must pay an additional fee, and groups, such as Planned Parenthood, can express an opposing viewpoint by applying for their own plate under the specialty license plate system, Staver argues.

Choose Life, Inc., a non-profit group, launched in 1997 what has become a national movement.

Beginning with a law signed by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the plates have been approved in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, Tennessee, South Carolina and Montana. Legislation has been proposed in a dozen more states.

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