South Carolina Citizens for Life unveils redesigned “Choose Life” vehicle license plate

By Holly Gatling, Executive Director, South Carolina Citizens for Life

From left, SCCL volunteer and recent USC Law School graduate Melvin Lewis; Aiken County Citizens for Life President Debbie Baer; and former SCCL intern and current USC Law School student Micah Chetta.

Editor’s note. My family and I will be on our vacation through September 7. I will occasionally add new items but for the most part we will repost “the best of the best” — the stories our readers have told us they especially liked.

South Carolina Citizens for Life is excited to announce that our Choose Life S.C. license plates has undergone a redesign making it more identifiable with the Choose Life license plates nationwide. These plates have been in production for 10 years. Funds generated by these license tags is passed along to the South Carolina Association of Pregnancy Care Centers that provide free assistance, including medical care, to girls and women who find themselves facing a difficult pregnancy.

The Choose Life license plate saga in South Carolina has a long and convoluted history that includes hard fought battles in court and ultimately the approval of the Choose Life S.C. tag by the State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

In 2000, the South Carolina General Assembly passed a Choose Life tag. It was signed into law by then Governor Jim Hodges but immediately challenged in federal court by the mega abortion business Planned Parenthood.

Ultimately, the U.S 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Choose Life tag in South Carolina on the grounds that the General Assembly failed to pass a choose death message plate for the abortion industry. Although other federal districts upheld Choose Life tags, the U.S Supreme Court declined to hear our appeal.

As always, the pro-life movement in South Carolina never gave up. In 2005 State Sen. Mike Fair, now retired, introduced a bill to allow 501 (C) 3 non-profit organizations to apply directly to the DMV for a specialty plate that generates funds for philanthropic causes. This legislation was “message neutral” and unlikely to be challenged. It passed and was signed into law by then Gov. Mark Sanford.

South Carolina Citizens for Life (SCCL) then began the arduous process of applying for a Choose Life license plate through the DMV. At that time our art was restricted to an official logo on file with the Secretary of State’s office. Ultimately, the DMV approved our design.

But there was one final step. The DMV, being concerned about the 4th Circuit’s prior ruling, sought an opinion from then Attorney General Henry McMaster as to whether the new DMV Choose Life SC tag could be challenged in court. Mr. McMaster issued an opinion in favor of the Choose Life S.C. license plates.

In his opinion, as long as SCCL met the DMV requirements for a tag – which we did – it would be a violation of our right to free speech to deny us a DMV issues license plate.

In 2008, we unveiled the first successful Choose Life S.C. license tag in a press conference here at the State House. In 2017, the DMV announced it is standardizing specialty license plates and allowed organizations such as SCCL a one-time opportunity to redesign the plate. The redesigned plate we submitted contains the distinctive “Choose Life Kids” – which is recognizable nationwide as the Choose Life license plate.

In most of the 31 states that have Choose Life license plates, the plates feature the logo of the two children drawn in a kindergarten style. The plates symbolize the equality and inherent value and dignity of all children, born and unborn. The motto Choose Life is taken from Deuteronomy 30: 19 in which Moses says, “Choose life, that you and your children may live.”

South Carolina Citizens for Life is grateful for the numerous people in our state government, the Palmetto State motorists, and the extended pro-life community for making the original and the updated Choose Life S.C. license tag possible.

Click here to see the redesigned plate.