In an opinion by Reagan-appointed Judge James Fox, a federal court in North Carolina held that North Carolina can no longer issue license plates promoting an anti-abortion view unless it also provides supporters of reproductive choice with the opportunity to display a similar plate advertising their views — in Judge Fox’s words, “[t]he State’s offering of a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice plate constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.” During the debate over the 2011 law that authorized the anti-abortion plate, six amendments were offered authorizing plates that would have stated either “Trust Women. Respect Choice” or just “Respect Choice,” but each of these amendments were voted down. The final bill authorized the following plate:
Judge Fox’s decision will appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which is one of the few federal appeals courts dominated by Democratic appointees. In 2004, the Fourth Circuit struck down a similar instance of viewpoint discrimination against supporters of reproductive freedom, although the three judges who decided that case could not agree on their reasoning.