UPDATE: Virginia Gets Closer to Creating Pro-Choice License Plate


Virginia’s General Assembly is inching
towards passage of legislation
that would approve the creation of a
pro-choice specialty license plate, making it the fourth
state with a pro-choice design
and the first created that required
legislative approval.

The House bill for the creation of the "Trust
Women: Respect Choice" license plate was voted out of the House Transportation
Subcommittee in a 15-6
bipartisan vote
Thursday morning, clearing the first hurdle for a general
floor vote.

According to Emily Polak, political and field associate on the Senate side at NARAL
Pro-Choice Virginia, the transportation committee is
voting on the plate as part of the license plate omnibus bill – which includes
other designs such as "In God We Trust,"
"Free Lunch Program," and a few others.  She said NARAL is hopeful it will be passed
out of the transportation committee later this afternoon.

If the plate is approved $15 of the $25 purchase price will go to Planned
Parenthood once the first
1,000 plates are purchased. Recently, there was grumbling by Republican
lawmakers, who say their issue isn’t the message of what’s on the plate, but who was benefitting financially. Money from the
sale of the plate will go to Planned Parenthood, who has said they 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. 

The state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told
the Associated Press that the issue
, "It isn’t the plate, it’s where the money goes."

Cuccinelli said he was prepared to defend the state if lawmakers
strike down the plate. Both he and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell said lawmakers
could avoid a clash by ensuring the bill doesn’t allocate any money from plate
sales to Planned Parenthood.

The ACLU of Virginia has threatened to sue if the state does
not allow for the creation of the plate, calling it a First Amendment issue if
lawmakers do not allow for parity of viewpoints. In 2009, the state voted to
allow production of "Choose Life" license plate, whose money is funneled to
crisis pregnancy centers

Polak said at the House transportation committee hearing there
were several conversations regarding where the funding would go, including
one suggestion by Delegate Scott Garrett (R-23rd) that the money from these
plates should not go to Planned Parenthood but instead to the Pregnant
Woman Protection Fund
, which was created last year as a funding pool for
different resources.

However, as the bill was voted out of the committee it was
not modified significantly. Changes could still be made before voting by the
full House.

"We’re excited that the Trust Women: Respect Choice
license plate has made it out of the House Transportation committee with a strong
bi-partisan vote of support," Pollak said. "However, the conversation will
continue once it reaches the floor of the House. We don’t want this license
plate and its pro-prevention funding stream turned into an anti-choice or
anti-prevention monetary allocation."

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m. EST: Emily Polak reports that the Senate omnibus license
plate bill just passed the Senate transportation committee and is headed for a full vote.

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