ILLINOIS
CHOOSE LIFE

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Frequently Asked Questions

  

1.        Where did the Choose Life specialty plate concept originate? 

County Commissioner Randy Harris initiated the effort in 1997 in Ocala, Florida. 

2.        Why are you sponsoring this bill? 

This endeavor promotes and financially supports adoption by helping crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes, adoption agencies, and adoption-minded pregnant mothers with their prenatal and delivery expenses, temporary housing, transportation, utility bills, food, maternity clothing and similar expenses of infants until placed with an adoptive family. 

3.        Who gets the money raised by Choose Life plate sales? 

Non-governmental, not-for-profit agencies not involved in abortion services in any way who offer free counseling and services to women who are committed to making an adoption plan for their child, including homes for unwed mothers, pregnancy help centers, adoption agencies, and organizations that provide help for foster and special needs children. 

4.        How much money do you expect to raise? 

Naturally, this will depend on the number of people who choose this specialty plate.  The Choose Life specialty plate in Florida has been on the road just over three years and is raising over $60,000 monthly.  Over $2 million has already been realized in the State of Florida toward adoption.  The current total for all states is $2,344,000, with sales in many of these sales only starting during 2003.  The Choose Life adoption specialty plate has now become the fastest selling specialty license plate in Florida.

5.        How many states have approved the Choose Life specialty plate? 

As of November 2003, twelve states have approved the plate (Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee).  The Choose Life plate is on sale in all of these states except two.   Court challenges have stopped sales in Louisiana and delayed issuance in South Carolina.  In addition, there are another 15 states, including Illinois, that are in the process of obtaining approval.  

6.        Why use the slogan, “Choose Life,” if the plate supports adoption efforts? 

         The Florida Choose Life organization determined that the slogan, “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 term, “Choose Life,” appeals to a wider audience on life issues, including pro-adoption, pro-life, pro-family, anti-euthanasia, and anti-death penalty. 

         In Illinois, as of November, 2003, over 23,000 people have signed a petition stating they are in favor of a plate specifically entitled, “Choose Life,” and the vast majority of those signers indicate they will purchase that plate if made available.   These responses came from 532 Illinois cities and towns, and 90 of 102 counties. 

7.        What about lawsuits? 

         Planned Parenthood, NOW, and the ACLU have been involved in lawsuits attempting to prevent the sale of Choose Life license plates.  In all instances that have reached a final decision so far, the objections raised have been rejected on the basis of First Amendment and civil rights.  Arguments of viewpoint discrimination have been rejected because nothing prevents submission of requests for other license plate messages.   Arguments of church-state entanglement have been rejected on the basis of free speech rights.

         Supporters of Choose Life plates in California and Arizona have filed suits against the state for discrimination and denial of First Amendment rights (free speech and civil rights) after rejection of attempts to obtain Choose Life plates while many other plates were approved.   Another suit filed in California seeks a change in the license plate approval process from requiring a vote in the California legislature to an administrative system open to any non-profit group with enough support to apply through the Department of Motor Vehicles.   Both approaches suggest future potential strategies for Illinois, if legislative efforts continue to be roadblocked by hostile committees.

         Choose Life specialty plates were approved in Alabama, Arkanasa, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Montana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, and went on the road without any suits being filed.

        Three lawsuits were filed in Florida by the National Organization of Women (NOW), Planned Parenthood (PP), and the Committee for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP).  All suits were lost or dismissed. 

         One suit was filed in Louisiana, and it was dismissed.  It was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and on December 2, 2002, the Court refused to hear any further appeal.  The Louisiana Choose Life plate was then sold for a few months before another lawsuit was filed.  This new lawsuit produced a ruling against the entire specialty plate system in Louisiana, but this ruling is being appealed.  During the appeal process no sales of any Louisiana specialty plates will be allowed, but those who already have specialty plates can use them and even transfer them to new cars.

         One suit was filed in South Carolina.  The plate was ruled unconstitutional at the first hearing.  However, the merits are the same as the Louisiana plate, which also lost at its first hearing and was later ruled Constitutional.  SC organizers are confident the SC case will be decided in favor of the plate at the 4th Circuit Level. 

         In November 2003, a lawsuit was filed in Tennessee after the Choose Life license plate went on sale.  This lawsuit charges viewpoint discrimination because the bill was not amended to include a provision for an alternate plate favored by abortion supporters.

 

 

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