Common Questions (FAQs)
1. Where did the Choose Life specialty plate concept originate?
County Commissioner Randy Harris initiated the effort in 1997, in Ocala, Florida. The Choose Life specialty plate was signed into law in 1999, and issued in August 2000.
2. Why use the words "Choose Life" if the plate supports adoption efforts?
The Florida Choose Life organization determined that the words "Choose Life" would sell the most plates and thus raise the most funds for adoption efforts. Many more people indicated a willingness to purchase a "Choose Life" plate than a "Choose Adoption" or "Support Adoption" plate. The words "Choose Life" also appeal to a wider audience, namely, to individuals who are pro-adoption, pro-life, pro-safe-havens and even anti-death penalty. In Illinois, over 38,000 people have signed a petition stating they are in favor of a plate specifically called "Choose Life" and the vast majority of those signers have indicated they will purchase a Choose Life plate when approved. These responses came from over 500 Illinois cities and towns and from virtually all of Illinois' 102 counties.
3. What is the purpose of the Choose Life specialty plate?
This endeavor promotes and financially supports adoption by helping crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and other pro-adoption agencies that help provide prenatal assistance, temporary housing, transportation, utility bills, food, maternity clothing and even medical and delivery expenses that desperate women so often need in order to consider adoption as an alternative to abortion or infant abandonment.
4. Who gets the money raised by the Choose Life specialty plates?
Non-governmental, not-for-profit agencies that do not perform or refer for abortion or abortifacients and that offer free counseling and services to desperate women facing crisis pregnancies are eligible to receive funding from the Choose Life specialty plate. The DMV or the sponsoring organization may retain a small percentage of the annual fee in order to administer the program and to promote the sale of the Choose Life plate.
5. How many states have approved the Choose Life specialty plate?
As of May 2008, twenty-five states have approved the Choose Life plate: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia.
6. How much money do you expect to raise?
Naturally, this will depend on the number of people who buy the Choose Life plate. The Choose Life specialty plate in Florida has been on the road since August 2000, and has been purchased by over 40,000 motorists who are willing to pay an extra $22 annually to support adoption. The plate is currently raising over $70,000 monthly and has already raised over $6 million in Florida to help promote and support alternatives to abortion. As of January 2010, the Choose Life plates in Mississippi and Alabama have raised over $1 million, and in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio and Tennessee the plates have now raised over $100,000.
7. Have there been lawsuits involving the Choose Life license plate?
Yes. Three lawsuits were filed in Florida by the National Organization of Women (NOW), the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), and the Women's Emergency Network (WEN). All three lawsuits were either lost or dismissed. In Louisiana, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed a second lawsuit and lost again. In Tennessee, ACLU filed a lawsuit and lost. In Ohio, both NARAL and ACLU filed lawsuits but later decided to withdraw them.
The Alliance Defense Fund has been aggressively and successfully defending Choose Life organizations in Arizona, Missouri, New Jersey and New York. In Arizona the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the Arizona Choose Life plate and in Missouri the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has recently ruled in favor of the Missouri Choose Life plate. In New Jersey, The Children First Foundation has won four federal court rulings thus far and CFF has also won two important federal court rulings -- including the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals -- in New York State.
Clearly, Choose Life organizations are winning their lawsuits -- and will continue to win -- because basic civil liberties and important 1st and 14th amendment issues are involved.
Common Arguments against Choose Life Plates
1. The Choose Life specialty plate isn't fair, because pro-abortion organizations do not have their own plates.
Any organization is free to go through the same legislative or administrative process to apply for its own specialty plate. Pro-abortion organizations do have their own specialty license plates in Hawaii, Montana and Pennsylvania. The Hawaii Choose Life license plate is outselling the pro-abortion plate by a margin of 5 to 1; the Montana Choose Life license plate is outselling the opposition's plate by a margin of 8 to 1; and the Pennsylvania Choose Life Plate is outselling the pro-abortion plate by a margin of 37 to 1.
2. Choose Life is a political statement.
Choose Life is not a political statement. Choose Life is a positive advocacy message that is completely non-partisan. Life, adoption and safe havens are all positive choices that everyone can and should promote and support.
3. The distribution of Choose Life specialty plate proceeds is not fair.
Again, any pro-abortion organization is free to apply for its own specialty plate in order to raise non-taxpayer, voluntary funding for their own pro-abortion organizations. Planned Parenthood already receives millions of taxpayer dollars. It seems more than fair that these pro-adoption, non-profit organizations be allowed to receive non-taxpayer, voluntary funding to help promote and fund alternatives to abortion. The Choose Life specialty plate provides the financial resources that desperate women so often need in order to choose life and make either an adoption plan or a safe haven relinquishment.
4. Choose Life specialty plates violate the separation between church and state.
This argument was used and failed in the Florida lawsuits. In addition, the Attorney General's office in Louisiana determined that the legislature may use license plates to encourage pregnant women to consider adoption and other alternatives to abortion, saying, "The State, acting through... its democratic process, has the right to speak this message."
5. Why not use a bumper sticker to raise funds for this cause?
Unlike the purchase of a bumper sticker, a specialty license plate creates an annual revenue stream to the sponsoring organization. Every time a Choose Life plate is renewed by the DMV or by the sponsoring organization, an additional donation is collected to help support the positive choices of life, adoption and safe havens.
6. Law enforcement agencies are complaining about the proliferation of specialty license plates.
Specialty plates in Illinois, for example, have been in existence since 1932, when the Illinois General Assembly ushered in the concept by designing special plates for its own members. In New York, there are over 300 different specialty plates on the road in New York because motorists love them and they raise important funding for the state. In general, most states welcome new specialty plates because they raise revenue for the state and for many important causes and organizations that serve the public welfare.
This appears to be a complaint that has arisen only since the Choose Life specialty plate has become a popular national phenomenon. To control the number of specialty plates, most states require a minimum number of plate orders before a new specialty plate will be manufactured. The state may also require a certain fee or an escrow account until a minimum amount of money is received by the state to cover the cost of producing a new specialty plate. While individual states may decide to raise their standards or retire less popular plates, they must always protect free speech and equal treatment under the law.