Though I try to keep up with public affairs in Wisconsin and elsewhere, I am clearly not spending enough time online. For how else could I have missed the news (which the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covered in less than a full sentence today and has not, according to a search of its website, addressed editorially) that Wisconsin’s Assembly is considering a bill that would create a “Choose Life” license plate. Twenty-seven other states (including Massachusetts and Connecticut) already offer “Choose Life” license plates.
$25 dollars from each purchase of this state license will go to a corporation known as Choose Life Wisconsin, part of the national Choose Life America, Inc. Choose Life Wisconsin was created, according to the Associated Press, by two anti-abortion groups with religious agendas–Wisconsin Family Action and Pro-Life Wisconsin. This money will be used to help fund private, anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, specifically their adoption programs. But there is some question about the group’s tax status and bylaws, the latter having earlier in the month not been made public. And the accuracy of the medical advice of these CPC’s has also been questioned.
Other special WI license plates for the funding of charitable and non-profit organizations exist, including for organ donation and the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation. But no pro-choice advocacy group gets such state-assisted funding and state-supplied advertising. And given the religious foundation of both Wisconsin Family Action and Pro-Life Wisconsin (the latter calls itself “a Christian organization”, the former supports the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools), the spirit of the separation of church and state appears to be violated. Choose Life America says it has raised $17 million through the selling of these special state license plates.
So what we have here are states acting as agents on the behalf of religiously oriented, anti-abortion advocacy groups for the collection of funds for controversial, medically questionable crisis pregnancy centers. Wisconsin is now looking to join this parade. But last year a federal judge in North Carolina, a judge appointed by Pres. Reagan, ruled the “Choose Life” plate was unconstitutional because no pro-choice plate was also available. The ruling has been appealed.
Choosing to carry a fetus to term and putting the child up for adoption may be the best option for many women who become unintentionally pregnant. But women (and men) deserve the best medical advice and an honest, objective setting forth of all the options based on the health and wishes of each particular pregnant woman. For the State of Wisconsin to get involved with the facilitation of anti-abortion, religious rhetoric does not seem in the best interests of our Constitution or the state’s women, especially since the state has done much to cut the funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides basic health care and contraception as well as safe abortions. Nor has the state so far offered a pro-choice license plate option.
UPDATE— Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has today offered a compromise, in which any nonprofit group could create a special license plate if it pays for what it costs to create the plate.
UPDATE (11/15)–So much for compromise. The Assembly Republicans passed the original bill early this morning.
- UPDATE: Wis. Assembly set to pass pro-life license plates (nbc15.com)
- Court to hear NC ‘Choose Life’ license plate case (charlotteobserver.com)