By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Want to choose “Choose Life” for your license plate message and give a donation to a crisis pregnancy center in the process? That opportunity could be yours if lawmakers approve House Bill 289 with its 50 or so new offerings for North Carolina specialty plates. Tar Heel drivers can already show their support for more than 130 causes on their vehicle’s rear plates, but have never had the “Choose Life” option despite nearly a decade of lobbying efforts.
The N.C. House Transportation Committee on Tuesday debated the measure, hearing a proposed amendment from Rep. Diane Parfitt (D-Cumberland) that would have added another plate — “Trust Women, Respect Choice,” with funds to go to Planned Parenthood.
The amendment failed 14-11, though some lawmakers said it would counter-balance the Choose Life message. Others wanted to ditch them both and have the Transportation Committee establish a policy prohibiting political issues on plates.
“While we understand that lawmakers don’t want specialty plates to stir controversy, quite frankly it’s a little late with some 135 causes already out there. What may be controversial to one person may not be to another,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “It’s a shame to think that all these years we’ve been able to tout everything from shag dancing to sea turtles, but we haven’t been able to promote life. We certainly hope that changes this year.”
Bill Brooks, president of The North Carolina Family Policy Council, pointed out on his organization’s Web site that this is the first he’s heard from pro-choice forces regarding a specialty plate.
“It is interesting that abortion supporters in North Carolina suddenly want their own license plate, when, to the best of our knowledge, they have never put forth that idea before,” Brooks said.
In contrast, Rep. Mitch Gillespie (R-McDowell) has sponsored legislation for the Choose Life bill repeatedly over the past nine years.
“I’m not going to quit,” Gillespie told the crowd at a Choose Life North Carolina rally last spring expressing his support not only for pregnancy care centers but for free speech.
The current bill, which includes plates for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Beekeepers, Mining enthusiasts and many more causes, would set the Choose Life plate fee at $25, with $15 of that earmarked for the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship. CPCF would distribute the funds annually to not-for-profit agencies that offer pregnant women counseling or other free services, excluding abortion. At least 300 applications for the plate would have to be received before it would be produced.
Choose Life license plates are already on the road or approved in 26 states with over 573,000 sold or renewed and more than $13.6 million raised, according to Choose Life Inc.
The Transportation Committee did not vote on House Bill 289 Tuesday but could take it up again as early as May 17.