Choose Life License Plates for California

Anne Starr

California could have a pro-adoption license plate soon if state lawmakers listen to a grassroots appeal in favor of a mother’s right to choose life. The idea for a new category of vanity plates faces fierce opposition, however, from the abortion industry.

If passed, Senate Bill 251 by Sen. Ray Haynes (R-Riverside) would raise money through the sale of special “Choose Life” license plates. The funds would go to non-profits that counsel and aid expectant mothers who carry their child to term and then allow the child to be adopted. Agencies that include abortion among their services would receive no money from the license plate sales. The bill is modeled on a successful “Choose Life” vehicle tag program in Florida.

California’s powerful pro-abortion forces are determined to block the license proposal from getting to the Senate floor. For example, the Transportation Committee will be having a special hearing to attempt to ban specialty plates in California. These are the lengths pro-abortion forces will go to in order to ensure there is no choice when it comes to abortion and adoption. Supporters of the “Choose Life” idea want lawmakers to know that thousands of California motorists would buy the bright yellow plates. To get the message across, promoters of the idea want potential buyers to send postcards, write letters and make phone calls to lawmakers.

If logic prevailed, the so-called pro-choice movement would tolerate the proposed license plate, according to Dana Serrano, director of the Women’s Resource Network. “Allow us the choice,” she said in challenge to those to preach that a woman has a right to choose. “Be truly pro-choice.” In reality, abortion supporters fear any movement that might hurt business, Serrano indicated. She holds no false expectations for the license’s chances of success. “There’s not much hope of getting it passed in the Legislature we have now or by the governor we have now,” she said. “However, I’m receiving e-mails from supporters that are so moving. I am praying for a miracle.”

Serrano, whose organization is leading the grassroots effort in favor of the plates, repeated some of the personal stories. “One woman said, ’My son is adopted and I would be proud to have the plate on my car.’ Another person said he found out at age 36 that he was adopted. Friends asked if he was upset, and he said no, that he was thrilled to find out that he had been given the chance to live. He wants to buy two plates. I heard from parents who have adopted six children and would love to have the plate on their van.”

Anyone who wants to help is urged to take the following actions:

1. Sign a postcard to demonstrate that support exists for the tags. Lifeline readers in California should receive a postcard along with this issue of the newsletter. Readers with internet access may sign an electronic postcard at:

2. Telephone (California) Rules Committee members and tell them you support SB251, the bill for “Choose Life” plates, and that you respectfully request that the bill at least have the opportunity to be heard. (See the list of committee members in the sidebar.)

3. Send a letter to your state representative or to the Women’s Resource Network on letterhead from your business or organization stating your support for SB251. The Women’s Resource Network will forward the letters it receives to lawmakers.

4. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper to let others know how they can help. Encourage people to write to their local Assembly and Senate representatives in favor of SB251.

“Specialty plates have been used to raise money for environmental causes and the California Arts Council,” says bill sponsor Haynes, a member of Life Legal’s Board of Advisors. “If the state can sanction license plates to save whales and picture whale tails, then certainly the state can sanction a license plate to save human lives.”

Any specialty, or “vanity,” license plate needs to sell 7,500 copies in the first year it is offered. Given the Florida track record and the positive responses her organization has received via email and telephone, Serrano is confident that more than enough support exists among Californians.

The license idea received a boost in mid-March from radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who twice urged listeners to contact California lawmakers and the Women’s Resource Network. An hour after the first mention, “there were 100 e-mails in my inbox,” said a delighted Serrano.

A network of pro-life organizations also is helping to generate support. Among them are Concerned Women for America, the National Right to Life League, the Capitol Resource Institute and many churches and crisis pregnancy centers.

Although she is not optimistic about the license plate’s political chances, Serrano has been encouraged recently by the appearance of her own material in e-mails. “I’m getting e-mails of my own stuff,” she said. Not realizing that Serrano was the author, “people are forwarding it to me as something useful to read. That means it has made the rounds. That’s a good sign.”

The “Choose Life” license plate movement has been successful and popular in Florida, where more than 15,000 of the plates have been purchased, raising more than $300,000 for crisis pregnancy centers and organizations that promote adoption. “Choose Life” bills also are being considered in Texas, Mississippi, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Not surprisingly, abortion backers have sued in Florida and Louisiana, arguing that “Choose Life” plates violate the constitutions of those states. In Florida, opponents argue that the license message illegally mixes church and state issues. In Louisiana, a judge has ordered the state to delay its proposed pro-life license plates until free speech issues are examined.

Meanwhile, a proposed pro-life license in Pennsylvania has drawn the ire of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League of Pennsylvania. The pro-abortion group argued that free speech rights would suffer if the state, through an approved license, promoted a particular point of view.

While the legal arguments spiral elsewhere, Serrano is focused on the pro-life message in California. “We don’t want to just talk about offering choices; we want to connect women in need with the help that is available,” she said.

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