Why the Big Disparity Between States Offering “Pro-Choice” And “Pro-Life” License Plates?


You might have missed it over the holidays, but Virginia drivers may soon be seeing a pro-choice license plate on the road. Planned Parenthood of Virginia is now offering Virginians the chance to pre-order a specialty license plate that says “Trust Women, Trust Choice.” Specialty license plates are offered in Virginia and other states to help raise money for specific causes.

To establish a specialty plate in Virginia, all plate sponsors “must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the General Assembly that [that they will] meet the statutory issuance requirements” for the plate by securing 350 orders before the state will approve production. Once the minimum number of orders is secured, approval is also required by the General Assembly.

Courtney Jones, grassroots manager of Planned Parenthood of Virginia said pro-choice plates would give supporters another means of donating to Planned Parenthood. “We also felt it was important because the incoming governor [Bob McDonnell] has made it a priority to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding during the next legislative session,” Jones said.

After the first 1,000 plates are purchased, $15 of the $25 purchase price will go to Planned Parenthood, which in turn will use money to provide prevention services such as annual gynecological exams, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and follow-up care. The money will not be used to provide abortion-related services. Jones said they have about 100 pre-orders since the announcement was made December 18. Those interested in buying the plate can order them here.

Another reason for Planned Parenthood to offer the plate is to give Virginians a “contrasting viewpoint” on the issue of choice, Jones said. Last spring Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles began offering “Choose Life” specialty plate designs that were first created in Florida in 1998. In Virginia purchasers of the “Choose Life” plates are donating money to Heartbeat International, a network of crisis pregnancy centers.  Such centers have been shown to provide misleading information on contraception, abortion, pregnancy, and safer sex.

Anti-choice groups have been particularly aggressive about getting approval of “pro-life” specialty plates, while pro-choice groups have not.  If plans for pro-choice plates in Virginia go forward, it would become only the fourth state that offers this option. Currently only Montana and Pennsylvania offer versions of pro-choice specialty license plates, while Hawaii offers a decal that says “Respect Choice.” Meanwhile 24 states offer some version of the “Choose Life” plate or a similar design that is construed as having a pro-life message.

There may be several reasons why the disparity exists. Each state sets its own process for determining how specialty plates are created, some have a process by which citizens can put forward proposals that are determined by the Department of Motor Vehicles.  But many states require acts by the state legislature which can quickly turn what is normally a non-controversial “rubber stamp” process into a political showdown between pro-choice and anti-choice legislators.

Janet Crepps is deputy director in the US Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. She also served as co-counsel in Hill v. Kemp, a case in Oklahoma where pro-choice advocates tried to block the sale of “Choose Life” plates on First Amendment grounds because the state makes it difficult for motorists to obtain pro-choice specialty license plates.

Crepps speculated that part of the reason for the huge disparity is that anti-choice groups are possibly more motivated than pro-choice organizations to put out the specialty plates.

“[Anti-choice groups] are aggressively trying to promote their views and just are more aggressive in doing pro-active legislation,” Crepps said. “They see [specialty plates] as a direct means for obtaining funding for crisis pregnancies centers and opening and funding crisis pregnancy centers is a big motive for anti-choice organizations.

Crepps said she doesn’t think pro-choice organizations dismiss the idea of putting out specialty plates, but that the struggle in some states to get the plates in place may not be viewed as worth the cost.

“”You need to pick your battles,” Crepps said. “If you looked to see what kind of pro-active legislation most pro-choice groups would want to pass they would probably focus on other things. I don’t think [getting a] pro-choice plate has been the battle for most states.”

Another cause for the disparity is that there is a national organization dedicated solely having “Choose Life” plates created in every state. There is no corresponding pro-choice organization dedicated to the same goal.

Last spring, after advocates in Virginia garnered enough pre-orders to demonstrate suitable interest to the General Assembly for a “Choose Life” plate – the normal process for specialty plate creation — Gov. Tim Kaine signed the required corresponding legislative bill. He said it was an issue of “free speech” not to deny Heartbeat International their plate when there are plates of other groups with controversial messages including “Sons of the Confederacy.”

“If Planned Parenthood . . . or another similar organization ever chooses to seek a specialty license plate in Virginia, I believe the constitution would require the state to approve that plate to protect against any viewpoint discrimination,” [Kaine] said.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with Rachel Larris please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • jgbeam

    Easy. There are more pro-lifers than pro-choicers.

    Abortion is not health care.

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • harry834

    "Should the woman decide for herself whether or not to get an abortion or should other people decide for her?"

    How might they respond to this question? If they say that the woman should decide for herself, than they are pro-choice even if they don’t want to admit it, and even if they feel the negative way about abortion that you do Jim

  • harry834

    in the decision of whether or not a woman should have an abortion, who should ultimately decide:

     

    A. the government

    B. pro-lifers

    C. the woman herself

    D. pro-lifers and the government

    E. the woman’s family members

    F. the woman’s husband/boyfriend

    G. pro-choicers

  • harry834

    we have to acknowledge the fact that women who get abortions go to a doctor – not a carpenter, not a firefighter, but a doctor – and a clinic to get abortions. It is an accepted principle for health care advocacy that anyone going to see a doctor is entitled to the a certain standard of care. The patient is the woman and she has the same right as any patient to that standard of care, regardless of what others think of her medical decisions.

    If you think such a woman ought to be considered a murderer rather than a patient, ask yourself why you wouldn’t want to prosecute her for murder.

  • julie-watkins

    movement to change hearts and minds. Some women, because they have free will same as men, prefer to act as if they were equal and will make choices that some politicians disagree with. There wouldn’t be so many "Choose Life" license plates – complete with

    a national organization dedicated solely having "Choose Life" plates created in every state

    if there wasn’t the perceived "problem" of "too many" women not making the decisions that strangers think they "should" make. In other words, is part of the "every day since birth" of trying to train women not to be uppity and follow expected gender roles. Just makes me more determined to not cooperate.

  • harry834

    perhaps people only feel comfortable blocking a woman’s path to an abortion if we are talking about women they don’t know, so that they are an abstract "other" rather than someone who might be a friend or acquaintence. How might Jim Grant react to one if his female friends saying she had an abortion? Would Jim say the harsh negative things to her as he has said on this site? We all know he wouldn’t, and most of us wouldn’t either. But would he really look at this person, sitting amongst his other friends, sharing her story…would he look at such a person and think the horrible labels of "murderer" and "killer" that he has vocalized on this site? Would he even be able to sit politely with a murderer at his table? Would he tell his friends in private what he really thought after she left?

    It may make for an awkward social situation. I’m not sure how many of us can share a table with someone who murdered their child. 

  • derekp

    I wonder how Planned Parenthood would feel if Pro-lifers tried to censor pro-choice license plates in the same way the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have tried to censor pro-life plates?

  • crowepps

    I wonder whether it would lower the vehicular accident rate if people weren’t distracted by trying to read each others license plates and bumper stickers.

     

    I wonder how much difference it would make to actual fetuses if even a small portion of the money that is wasted on various forms of advertising to flaunt our personal political views and make ourselves feel important was redirected towards actually helping pregnant women.

  • seraph

    1) As Rachel pointed out, the reason the pro-choicers in Hill v. Kemp (who were not, in fact, Planned Parenthood or the ACLU) filed their case is because the state of Oklahoma, while glad to provide "Choose Life" license plates, was resistant to allowing similar pro-choice license plates.  If anti-choicers would stop with their censorship, the problem would end.

     

    2) While anti-choice censorship is upsetting, I imagine it bothers Planned Parenthood workers more to be shot at, bombed, burned, stalked and sent letters filled with Anthrax…you know, all of the Christian love that anti-choicers have shown them over the years.

     

  • seraph

    Only if you think women are not people.

  • rachel-larris

    Well DerekP if that is the ACLU & Planned Parenthood’s goal to “censor” the pro-lifers they sure aren’t doing a good job of it. There are 24 states with “Choose Life” plates (and the money going to crisis pregnancy centers) and currently only 2 states with Pro-choice plates. (Hawaii only offers a decal).

    I find it hard to say they have been censored when such an imbalance exists.

  • jodi-jacobson

    in their attitudes and their actions. 

     

    Yes, when asked if their own sister, mother, neighbor, friend should have the right to determine what to do when faced with an unintended pregnancy, the majority of Americans will say: "Not my decision; it is hers."  Most people, whatever they profess "to be" in some abstract state do not want to impose their views on others (imagine that!!).

     

    And if we go by women alone–one third of all of whom in this country have had, or will have an abortion in their lifetime; same rates of abortions among Catholics, Protestants, and others—than the majority are pro-choice in action, and when it comes to their own self-determination.

     

    Sorry, Jim.

     

    Jodi Jacobson

  • harry834

    Many people weren’t thinking of the women in their lives when Nelson/Stupak was being debated. Many just threw up their hands and said, "it’s that crazy abortion issue again!". More people want the issue to disappear than they acknowledge that it is real women’s lives on the line.

    "But she could get it somewhere else"

    "But anyone who wants an abortion can get it…and besides why do I have to pay for it?"

    Abstract women, not real women, are on the minds of the Americans who digest this from the tv screens and papers. This includes those Americans whom would want their own daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, best friends, mothers left alone. Freedom for me (and mine), but not for thee. With "thee" being more an imaginary stereotype of "those" women rather than the women who could be one of my peeps. 

  • prochoicegoth

    The majority are pro-choice for one thing. And unless you think women are dogs or some other species, abortion IS healthcare as it provides CARE for the woman and it concerns her HEALTH. Must you continue to reiterate your ignorance? 


    It’s pro-choice or
    NO choice.

  • lexcathedra

    Why not? Why the disavowal? Is it shame, hypocrisy, or stinking politics that leads Planned Parenthood of Virginia to insist that it will not use any funds garnered from the sale of specialty plates to help pay for elective abortions?

    Maybe it’s all three.

  • jgbeam

    ..only if you believe the pre-born are not people.

     

    Abortion is not health care.

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • jgbeam
  • ahunt

    Jim, one more time…are you insisting that pregnancy is "healthy" for women?

  • jgbeam

    Harry834,

    I haven’t been harsh on this site.  Where have I used the words "killer", murderer" or any such term?  I don’t believe women who have had abortions are murderers.  I just don’t believe they realize what they have done.  This is why ultrasounds are so important.  A live image showing the life a mother is considering aborting is a powerful tool.   

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • jgbeam

    Pregnancy is the beginning of a new life.  With pregnancy come risks just as life has risks every day.  If you choose to characterize pregnancy as an unhealthy state go right ahead but if your goal is to eliminate this unhealthy state the only way is to eliminate pregnancies altogether.  Your argument leads to ending life entirely.

     

    Abortion is not health care.

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • jgbeam

    Choose Life.

     

    Abortion is not health care.

     

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • princess-rot

    I don’t believe women who have had abortions are murderers. I just don’t believe they realize what they have done.

    “What? You mean that if I keep this pregnancy I’ll probably have a real live BABY?! Omigod, I never would have noticed! Thanks, jgbeam! *turns to clinic staff* How did I get wrapped up in this? Why didn’t you tell me being pregnant means eventually having a baby? Oh my god!” *flounces*

    Generally when I encounter this paternalistic attitude, it’s just rationalizing an ugly misogyny that believes women are just too dumb to know anything, despite all evidence to the contrary. Despite that you don’t actually say call women murderers and killers does not hide the fact you think we are stupid.

  • princess-rot

    Pregnancy is the beginning of a new life. With pregnancy come risks just as life has risks every day.

    I get the impression I’m being told how to drive a car by someone who gets chauffered everywhere and who couldn’t find the ignition with both hands and a diagram.

  • colleen

    It’s just not so

     

     

     

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • julie-watkins

    I don’t believe women who have had abortions are murderers. I just don’t believe they realize what they have done.

    In the same way, I’ve read complaints about secular humanists not knowing what they do when they disregard god and are too egotistical and selfish.

    My opinion is that this is a difference in world views. I was raised Catholic, but I don’t ever remember “believing” in an afterlife … and after reading enough of the bad actions of the some bishops and several Vatican official documents I’ve stopped feeling I had even a cultural connection. On the other hand, for people who think Things Happen For A Reason being born female instead of male is a pretty large sign of what Nature (or God) wants for you and it’s understandable why such people might have “traditional” expectations of how pregnant women should act if contraception fails. For people who think gender-at-birth is chance, then Nature’s Sexism is an ethical problem. That’s why I think saying pregnant women are obligated is saying women (and poor people) are second class. To me, abortion a conditional “problem” — so long as the greater ethical problem of women’s oppression and classist oppression of the poor exist, the circumstance of an unwanted fetus ethically has to be decided by the woman and her chosen advisors. Or it’s added injustice to women and poor families.

  • cjonesneal

    As someone working on the ground in Virginia to sell these plates, I can definitively tell you it is not shame or hypocrisy. It is common-sense. The Virginia legislature is predominantly anti-choice, as is our new Governor, Lt. Governor, and AG. If this bill has a chance in hell of passing, the revenue has to go to prevention services like STI testing, low-cost birth control, and annual gynecological exams. We are not ashamed of the services we provide, nor are we hypocrites. We just want to actually be able to help our patients who are often underinsured or uninsured.

    So yeah, it may be a political decision but the reasoning behind it comes from a desire to make substantive change in Virginia and improve people’s lives.

  • gordon

    A few things, Jim Grant:

     

    Whether most people are pro-choice or anti-choice is irrelevant, since Constitutional rights are not subject to majority vote.  Furthermore, if you knew the first thing about survey reasearch, you would acknowledge that this issue is much too complicated to be captured by a simple dichotomy.  The chart farther down in the Gallup article you cite shows that 76% of Americans think abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances.  From this, we can conclude that "pro-life" must mean very different things to different people.  I do not sense from any of your comments that you recognize these differences.

     

    The notion that a quarter-size blob of undifferentiated cells is a human being, in any sense that term is normally used, is ridiculous on its face.  I consider myself a peacemaker who likes to find common ground, but if you (or anyone else) honestly and truly believes that the preservation of such an entity trumps the welfare of a walking, talking, thinking, feeling woman, then we simply have no common ground to find.

     

    If advocating that government outlaw something, in this case abortion, isn’t politics, please give an example of something that is.  If you are in fact not advocating that, but just expressing your opinion about when life begins, please say so.  (I used to assume that anyone who insisted that life begins at conception was automatically in favor of outlawing abortion, but that is apparently not always true.)

  • ahunt

    Jim, unless you are claiming that "life=health," then the fact remains that abortion constitutes health care.

  • crowepps

    I don’t believe women who have had abortions are murderers.  I just don’t believe they realize what they have done. 

    Yeah, because we all know women aren’t capable of higher level thinking like ‘ending a pregnancy’ actually means ‘removing the fetus’.  The persistent misogyny of the extreme ProLifers is just astounding. 

  • crowepps

    Your argument leads to ending life entirely.

    Actually it leads to pregnancy being a state which is voluntarily chosen by a person willing to take those health risks, and there are enough women out there who want to be pregnant to keep life going along quite nicely.

  • lexcathedra

    yet you know that money WILL be freed up from other sources to provide for the elective abortions of underinsured and uninsured Virginians IF the specialty plate Bill becomes law, and that, I surmise, is why so-called "pro-choice" license plates have been a hard sell nationally. As a rule, most folks don’t like the thought that government could be involved in aiding and abetting the abortion industry in any way, EVEN IF they aren’t directly implicated.

     

    As for improving people’s lives, I’m all in favor of it, including those whose lives have only just begun.

  • jgbeam

    These polls address many issues, most having to do with legal positions and abortion funding but regarding the question at hand of whether one considers themself to be pro-life or pro-choice, I find the following results among the polls:

    Gallup 5/09 life 51% choice 42%;

    Fox 11/09  life 47% choice 44%;

    USA 7/09   life 47% choice 46%;

    CNN 4/09   life 45% choice 49%.

     

    And on whether abortion is morally wrong or right:

     

    PEW 8/09  wrong 52% right 10%;

    CNN 10/07 wrong 60% right 36%

     

    I don’t dispute any other findings in the polls but when challenged to display your sentiments on your bumper for all to see, pro-lifers rule.

    Abortion is not health care

    Jim Grant, Pro-lifer

  • lexcathedra

    You help women to kill their babies, and you are “not ashamed” about shedding innocent blood. Nor would you want your clients to EVER feel ashamed about killing their babies, since this carnage could POSSIBLY improve their lives, but there is no money back guarantee attached to your “services,” is there? Caveat emptor, right?

  • colleen

    These polls address many issues, most having to do with legal positions

     

    Well, Jim those pesky issues and certainly the legal ones define the meaning of what people mean when they say "pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’.

    but when challenged to display your sentiments on your bumper for all to see, pro-lifers rule.

     

     . Wow, it’s just like football. go team

     

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • ahunt

    but there is no money back guarantee attached to your “services,” is there?

    Um…not following. Can you clarify?

  • lexcathedra

    The assertion is made that such "services" as those provided by a typical Virginia PP affiliate "improve people’s lives," but I dare say that in at least a few instances they have made people’s lives much worse. Caveat emptor.

  • lexcathedra

    .

  • ahunt

    Color me stupid. but I am still not following.

    Can you get us from A:…the services provided by Planned Parenthood…to B:…a no money back guarantee?

  • crowepps

    when challenged to display your sentiments on your bumper for all to see, pro-lifers rule.

    That may have something to do with the fact that those who are ProChoice are unlikely to vandalize cars with ProLife bumper stickers, while the reverse doesn’t seem to hold true.

  • crowepps

    Julie, I don’t have time to track things down today, but I would bet you somebody is making a buck off of this.  We don’t have a national organization dedicated solely to having "Trust Women" or "Choice" plates because the ProChoice people don’t need to support themselves by scamming people.

  • prochoicegoth

    You can THINK abortion is not healthcare until the cows come home Jim, but the fact remains that abortion CARES for a woman and it has to do with her HEALTH in some way, shape or form. Just because you stick your fingers in your ears and go “lalala, I can’t hear you!”, doesn’t make you correct or your OPINION a fact.


    It’s pro-choice or
    NO choice.

  • prochoicegoth

    First off, abortions are only like 3% of the services PP offers to their patients. Second, there are no infants or killing of infants involved in an abortion. Third, if a woman feels negatively towards her choice, PP does offer counseling or refers her to a counselor. Unlike you, PP cares about women and provides them with support no matter what they choose to do with their pregnancy. 

     

    It’s pro-choice or NO choice.