Recently, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder decided to veto a “Choose Life” specialty license plate. As many as 29 other states across the country already offer “Choose Life” plates, 15 of which give the proceeds to crisis pregnancy centers and other life-affirming organizations. New Jersey, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Delaware, all of which Clinton won by more than a ten-per-cent margin in 2016, have “Choose Life” plates available. “The ‘Choose Life’ license plate is a political message that has the potential to bitterly divide millions of Michiganders and that, in my view, is not appropriate for a state-issued license plate,” Gov. Snyder wrote in a note to Michigan lawmakers. I have one word for Snyder’s decision: Unconscionable.
While Snyder dually reserves the right to his views and subsequent decisions, his conclusion consists of several fallacies. First of all, a state license plate with “Choose Life” is simply saying to mothers and those facing mental health crises that the Michigan government hopes they will choose life, as National Review’s Margot Cleveland opined; nothing more, nothing less. Moreover, the government is not forcing this message onto Michiganders’ private property, and the money would go to “life-affirming programs and projects,” including suicide prevention. Would those on the left object to that? Not to mention these so-called “anti-abortion” groups aren’t getting taxpayer dollars from those who would rather their money go elsewhere: The funding is coming from purchasers of the “Choose Life” plates who pay a surcharge to buy the plates.
Planned Parenthood had a petition up on its Advocates of Michigan site for contacting Snyder to tell him to veto SB 163, the “Choose Life” plate. The petition said, “The state should not subsidize nor promote a special interest organization that does not provide health services and uses the State’s resources to impose its ideological beliefs on others.”
Though the first part of Planned Parenthood’s statement is subjective to an extent, the organization falsely states that State resources would be going towards the project. That blatant mischaracterization entirely shifts the discussion away from the gray political center into a sharp, black-and-white talking point among the left and right. In omitting the guarantee of free-will for taxpayers, the false portrayal would “bitterly divide millions of Michiganders.” The truth, though, is that Michiganders aren’t being compelled to do anything; the plates are optional, and no money is going anywhere without the person’s consent.
Governor Snyder did a disservice to Michigan by issuing this veto.
In implicating an impartial objection to state-issued specialty plates, he overlooks both Supreme Court decisions in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum and Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, both of which held that certain forums could express government viewpoints and are reserved for government speech, meaning naysayers have little grounds to allege viewpoint discrimination. Michigan would not need a pro-choice plate to counterbalance the life-affirming plate. Snyder chose not to display the message, but if he believes in the affirmation of life, the Supreme Court would not have given him any trouble in signing the bill. To the contrary, if the State required its residents to display a plate with a message such as “Choose Life,” that would likely violate the citizens’ right to free expression, sanctified by the First Amendment.
The state and federal governments have an obligation to uphold core principles of America’s foundations and the ideas that make America what it is today. In the Declaration of Independence, it states that our unalienable rights include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” John Locke, an influential Enlightenment philosopher, said in his Second Treatise on Government that: “being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions…. [and] unless it be to do justice on an offender, [no one should] take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.” Life is a cornerstone of America’s beginnings and its longevity. Our government, therefore, has every responsibility to promote it. The government should use its platform to uphold nonpareils, as long as they don’t encroach on the Bill of Rights or on the taxpayers’ ability to prohibit their funds from personally objectionable causes.
If liberal bastions can opt to have “Choose Life” messages on their license plates, so can Michigan. So many mothers, especially from lower-income families, need help; so many hopeless individuals need help finding hope. Fund the organizations that affirm life in all areas, and America’s successive generations will be better off. As for Governor Snyder, it looks like pseudo-impartiality took precedence over principles. His decision is nothing other than ill-founded, and when coming from a representative of the supposed party of values, it’s disheartening and utterly disappointing that our founding ideals would be cast aside in this way. Let’s hope that the next governor will take the high ground.