The ACLU this week put the brakes on its lawsuit to stop Ohio from offering "Choose Life" license plates. The end of the road really came last June, when the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the ACLU's challenge to the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision upholding a similar program in Tennessee. Further litigation would have been hopeless, because Ohio appeals also go to the Sixth Circuit.
As I blogged at this site last May, the Tennessee case was largely pro-choice propaganda masquerading as free speech advocacy. It was litigated by the ACLU's "Reproductive Freedom Unit" and the accompanying press releases repeatedly derided the plate program as "anti-choice." The goal wasn't so much to force the state to allow equal space on plates for pro-choice messages as it was get the pro-life messages off.
The pro-choice motive was at least as overt in the Ohio litigation. Indeed, the ACLU brought the case on behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. NARAL, in turn, announced the suit with a blast at crisis pregnancy centers: "[n]ot only are these plates unconstitutional but the money they raise funds centers that often masquerade as clinics to lure in women and give them inaccurate and misleading information."
Despite the recent developments, the license plate controversy is still technically a two-way street. Under the precedents, a staunchly pro-choice state legislature could authorize abortion-friendly plates and prohibit similar opposing displays. But this has never happened: every demand for a pro-choice plate has arisen as "me too" reaction to some pro-life program. The pro-choice lobby apparently views affirmative cheerleading for its cause the same way the pro-life side views abortion: as a very, very dead end.