Choose Life license plates
Choose Life license plates are specialty license plates available in 27 states in the United States that express a pro-life message. The plates are the concept of Choose Life, Inc., a pro-life advocacy group based in Ocala, Florida. It was founded in 1997 by Randy Harris, a commissioner of Marion County, after he got an idea (when he noticed an environmental plate on the car in front of him, while stuck in traffic) to use specialty license plates as a way to raise funds for promoting adoption over abortion. The plates feature the phrase "Choose Life", a slogan used by the pro-life movement, and a child art-like drawing of two children.
In 1997, Choose Life, Inc. collected the 10,000 signatures and US$30,000 required under Florida law at the time to submit an application for a new specialty plate, and State Senator Tom Lee sponsored a bill in support of the tag's creation. The bill passed both houses of the Florida Legislature in early 1998, but was vetoed by then-Governor Lawton Chiles, who stated that license plates are not the "proper forum for debate" on political issues. While campaigning for the governorship later in 1998, Jeb Bush stated that, if elected, he would sign a Choose Life bill if approved by the legislature. Choose Life, Inc. went forward with the plate application again, and, after passing both houses, Governor Bush signed it into law on June 8, 1999. Since then, Choose Life, Inc. has been active in helping groups in other states pursue "Choose Life" license plates. As of April 30, 2010, Choose Life, Inc. reported that Choose Life license plates had raised over $12 million. On June 21, 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 501, which directs the funds from the plates directly to Choose Life, Inc.
Choose Life, Inc. is a non-profit organization, funded by donations and the sale of promotional items, such as t-shirts and neckties. In Florida, a specialty license plate costs an additional $25USD per year, with $20 being distributed to crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and non-profit adoption agencies.
States with Choose Life license plates
As of December 2010, Choose Life license plates are available in 27 states:
States where Choose Life is working for approval
According to Choose Life, Inc., they are working in 15 states to get the sale of the plates approved:
Reaction and criticism
"Choose Life" license plates have been criticized by pro-choice organizations, which have argued that in authorizing them, but not offering plates conveying a pro-choice message at the same time, states have carried out viewpoint discrimination. To this charge, Russ Amerling, Choose Life, Inc.'s publicity coordinator, has replied that "[pro-choice groups] have just as much right to have a plate as we do, as long as they go through the same process we did and not try to piggy-back onto the various states' Choose Life bills".
Pro-choice license plates
Four states currently provide license plates with a pro-choice theme: Hawaii, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Hawaii was the first state to offer the plates (2003). Virginia differs from the other three states: its license plates had to be approved by its Legislature, and fees from sale and registration of the plates will raise money for Planned Parenthood. The Virginia Legislature did not favor adding pro-choice plates, but had little choice after the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Virginia allowing pro-life plates meant the plates constituted a public forum for speech. To offer a plate espousing one viewpoint while not allowing an equally popular opposing viewpoint was therefore ruled unconstitutional.
- Palmer, Alyson M. (April 6, 2006). "'Choose Life' License Tag May Hit a Bump in the Road." Fulton County Daily Report. Retrieved June 23, 2007.
- Gielow Jacobs, Leslie. (2001). Free Speech and the Limits of Legislative Discretion: The Example of Specialty License Plates. Florida Law Review, 53 (3), 419-432.
- Lithwick, Dahlia. (February 6, 2003). "Poetic Licenses." Slate. Retrieved June 23, 2007.
- "Florida approves `Choose Life' license plate." (Nov 24, 1999). The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved June 23, 2007.
- Olszonowicz, Deborah. (September 1999). Motor Vehicle Registration and License Plates. Retrieved June 23, 2007.
- Burge, Kathleen. (May 5, 2006). "Driving force." Boston Globe. Retrieved June 23, 2007.
- Madigan, Erin. (November 25, 2002). "Choose Life Car Tags Spark Debate." Stateline.org. Retrieved June 24, 2007.
- Choose Life, Inc. (June 18, 2010). Choose Life Newsletter. Retrieved June 18, 2010.
- Alaska Personalized License Plates
- Wangsness, Lisa. (June 18, 2010). "Antiabortion message for specialty plate." Boston Globe. Retrieved June 18, 2010.
- Pro-Life License Plates Available in Massachusetts. June 21, 2010. LifeSiteNews.com. Retrieved 2010-06-22.
- "The New Jersey Choose Life License Plate is Now Available". The Children First Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- Texas Choose Life plate
- Hurst, Sarah E. (2003). A One Way Street to Unconstitutionality: The “Choose Life” Specialty License Plate. Ohio State Law Journal, 64 (3), 957-998. Retrieved June 24, 2007.
- The Center for Reproductive Rights. (August 2002). "Choose Life" License Plates. Retrieved June 24, 2007.
- "Pro-Choice License Plate Advocated In Virginia: Supporters Threaten Lawsuit". The Huffington Post. May 25, 2011 (last updated). Retrieved 2012-05-25.