Abortion-rights supporters want specialty license plate

Abortion-rights supporters want specialty license plate


Sen. Janet D. Howell, D-Fairfax (left), shows the license plate she is proposing to Jessica Honke, public policy director for Planned Parenthood.

By Jim Nolan
Published: February 5, 2010
Updated: February 5, 2010

Last year’s anti-abortion “Choose Life” specialty license plate could soon have its political counterpoint in aluminum: A “Trust Women/Respect Choice” license plate.

The Senate Transportation Committee yesterday heard testimony from abortion-rights groups seeking approval of Senate Bill 704. It would provide the same revenue-sharing opportunity to Planned Parenthood that is enjoyed by the anti-abortion group that benefits from the proceeds of the “Choose Life” plates.

“It’s unfair to have just one viewpoint expressed,” said Sen. Janet D. Howell, D-Fairfax, who sponsored the legislation — one of six specialty license plate bills that the panel considered. It has not voted on any.

To qualify for specialty plates, proponents must present evidence that more than 350 people will purchase the $25 plates. For revenue-sharing plates the organization receives $15 of the $25 fee for every set of plates sold after the first 1,000 sets. There are currently 190 specialty license plates, about 30 of which divert funds to nonprofit groups.

While no anti-abortion groups spoke against the proposal in the committee, not everyone was wishing it well.

“I think it’s going to have a difficult time” in the House of Delegates, “which would be fine with me,” said Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who as a state senator helped win passage of the “Choose Life” plate legislation last year.

The anti-abortion Cuccinelli said that while the current bill does not seem unconstitutional or illegal, he does not support money going to organizations that fund or perform abortions.

Jessica Honke, public policy director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said that none of the money raised by the sale of the plates would fund abortions.

“I would hope they would be even-handed,” said Howell, who said the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union would file suit “should the legislature or governor be so unwise as to not approve this license plate.”

Last year the ACLU objected to the passage of the “Choose Life” license plate, but then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said that because the practice of the General Assembly had been to allow political statements on plates, recent court rulings suggested that similar plates should be approved.

Contact Jim Nolan at (804) 649-6061 or jnolan@timesdispatch.com


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