By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Want to show support for our troops on your license tag? Give a shout out to AIDS awareness? Or let folks know that you are proud to be a nurse? No problem. The state’s 135 specialty plates let drivers show allegiance to everything from animals to shag dancing, but despite an eight-year legislative battle do not include a Choose Life option.
Organizers of a “Free Speech, Why Not NC?” rally set for May 25 in front of the Capitol hope that fact will soon change.
“We know there is opposition in the House leadership about allowing this bill to come to the floor for a vote, but we also believe that we should not stop now,” said Bobbie Meyer, board president of Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship. “This is not just about helping to fund pregnancy centers that help many thousands of women; it is a free speech issue.”
Last year alone, 50 other specialty plate bills passed out of committee with the Choose Life plate the only one not allowed a vote.
“North Carolina families are being denied free speech and available funds in these tough economic times,” proclaims the Pro-Life Democrats Web site.
In the 24 states where the plates have been approved, more than 573,000 have been sold and $12.3 million raised.
Meyers said that earmarking proceeds from sales of North Carolina’s Choose Life plate for CPCF’s 80-plus pregnancy care centers should make the bill even more appealing than it has been in the past.
Pregnancy care centers in the Tar Heel state saw more than 46,000 women and men last year, offering a variety of services from pregnancy and STD testing and ultrasounds to parenting classes, baby supplies and mentoring.
“This is not a bipartisan or political issue,” Meyers added. “This is a means of helping pregnant women, who often face daunting issues, to choose to have a child and go forward with their own lives.”
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, urged supporters to attend the rally and challenge their lawmakers to make the bill a priority.
Introduced last session by Rep. Mitch Gillespie (R-McDowell) along with fellow House Republicans Tim Moore (Cleveland), Pat McElraft (Carteret) and Carolyn Justice (New Hanover), Bill 168 was referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations as well as the Transportation and Finance committees.
Both the House and Senate versions of the bill would set the plate fee at $25 with $10 to go to the Special Registration Plate Account and $15 to the Collegiate and Cultural Attraction Plate Account for the CPCF, which would then distribute proceeds to nongovernmental, not-for-profit agencies that provide pregnancy services free of charge. Three hundred or more applications for a Choose Life plate would be required before the plate would be developed.
The House bill has 33 co-sponsors. Seventeen senators have joined sponsor Austin Allran (R-Catawba) to promote the companion bill, Senate Bill 210, which was referred to the Committee on Finance.
Finance bills remain eligible for consideration during the 2010 short session, so Choose Life supporters are being asked to attend the rally, visit or contact their lawmakers and sign an online petition to show their support for the legislation.
The May 25 “Why Not, NC?” rally is set to begin at 11 a.m. Featured speaker will be Russ Amerling, a national leader in the Choose Life license plate movement.
“We are putting together a wonderful rally and praying for God’s hand in this issue, however He chooses to act,” Meyers said. “People will be glad they came.”
For further information or to sign an online petition, go to www.ncchoose-life.org.