North Carolina’s House Transportation Committee Tuesday voted down an amendment offering a counter-balance to a proposal to introduce the anti-abortion rights message “Choose Life” on state license plates, the proceeds which would fund crisis pregnancy centers, according to the Greensboro, N.C. News & Record.
Rep. Mitch Gillespie (R-Marion) sponsored the “Choose Life” bill (PDF), which would add more than 50 specialty plates to the state’s current available pool. Among other proposed plates are “Hollerin’” (the word placed beneath a representation of a person hollering on the left side of the plate), “Victory Junction Gang Camp” and “Home of American Golf.”
According to the proposed legislation, for the “Choose Life” plate to be developed, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles would have to receive 300 or more applications. Then on a quarterly basis, the DMV would transfer the money in the Collegiate and Cultural Attraction Plate Account derived from the sale of the “Choose Life” plates to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, which in turn would distribute the money annually to nonprofit crisis pregnancy centers. None of the funds received could be distributed to any organization that “provides, promotes, counsels, or refers for abortion” or that charge women for services received.
North Carolina would join more than 25 states that currently have “Choose Life” plates, according to Choose Life, Inc. . In 17 other states, including North Carolina, there are proposals pending to adopt them.
During Tuesday’s committee debate, Rep. Diane Parfitt, (D-Fayetteville) offered an amendment to add a “Trust Women, Respect Choice” to the proposed plate list. She proposed that funds derived from those plate sales would help fund Planned Parenthood, which the state House recently defunded in the state budget.
“This is, I think, an appropriate counter-balance to the ‘Choose Life’ plate,’” Parfitt said. “Choose gives women the right to choose which one would be appropriate for them.”
What followed was an approximately 18-minute-long debate on whether or not to include Parfitt’s amendment, with a few representatives agreeing that it seemed like a fair proposal and others disapproving of public funds going to Planned Parenthood. Some representatives suggested both specialty plates be removed from the offerings.
Rep. Ray Rapp (D-Haywood, Madison, Yancey) said if “Choose Life” stays on the list, he would also support “Trust Women, Respect Choice,” but he preferred that they both be scrapped.
“We really shouldn’t be having issues on the licenses plate,” Rapp said. “Once we open this up to become billboards for whatever your favorite cause is, this will now set a precedent that will just proliferate, and we’re going to have billboards in essence for your particular points of view coming down and really cascading down on us. I’ve got serious problems with putting these issues on to begin with.”
Rep. Marcus Brandon (D-High Point) agreed with Rapp and suggested the Transportation Committee revise its policy of accepting specialty plates to exclude those that express highly political messages and fund controversial organizations with public funds.
The amendment was struck down 14-11.
The bill has not yet moved out of the Transportation Committee. Once it does, it will have to pass through the Finance Committee before it hits the House floor.
In Texas last week, the House faced a similar debate over Choose Life license plates, but there the measure prevailed and now awaits Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s signature.
Audio from Tuesday’s North Carolina House Transportation Committee hearing:
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