TRENTON - New Jersey's Motor Vehicles Commission has bowed out of a seven-year battle and quietly began offering license plates this month with the slogan "Choose Life."
The plates can be ordered through the New York-based Children First Foundation, which first tried to get them approved in 2003.
State officials initially rejected the plates, saying they did not want to get into a debate over abortion, as "Choose Life" is a slogan often used by antiabortion activists. The state also said it doesn't allow slogans, just the names of the organizations, on the plates.
The Children First Foundation, with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund law firm, fought the state decision in court. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying state officials have the right to reject slogans deemed political, religious, or controversial. But an appeals court in April said the state's decision may have amounted to impermissible "viewpoint discrimination" and sent the case back to the lower court.
Motor Vehicles Commission spokesman Mike Horan said officials decided to allow the plates because they wanted to avoid further legal expenses. He said the decision was made by state officials, not as part of a settlement with the plate's sponsors.
The "Choose Life" plates went on sale Dec. 3. Horan said none had been sold by Friday morning. Orders would come through the foundation, which would get $25 per plate.
The organizational tags are part of a broad system of plates in New Jersey. Special plates are available for alumni of colleges in and out of New Jersey, fans of sports teams like the New Jersey Devils and the Phillies, and members of several interest groups and organizations, including square dancers, the Masons, and Rotary International.