Virginia Should Opt Out on “Choose Life” License Plates

Jessica Bearden

The Virginia General Assembly recently passed a bill to authorize "Choose Life" license plates that would send funds to crisis pregnancy centers.

During the recently concluded legislative session, the Virginia General Assembly
passed a bill to authorize "Choose Life" license plates that now awaits
consideration by Governor Tim Kaine. Funds generated from the plates will
be distributed to so-called "crisis pregnancy centers."

There
are over 70 crisis pregnancy centers in Virginia, and you’ve most
likely seen their advertisements-billboards that read "Pregnant?
Scared? We can help." Many people mistakenly believe that these centers
do nothing more than provide materials and support to women who have
made the decision to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term.

In
reality, they have an extreme anti-choice agenda and often misinform
and mislead women about their options. Though they assume the
impartial, authoritative trappings of modern healthcare, their function
is primarily political-to berate and coerce those women they call
"abortion-minded" into carrying the pregnancy to term. A review of the
materials produced by crisis pregnancy centers and several
investigative reports about them reveal several of the deceptive and
coercive tactics most commonly employed by crisis pregnancy centers.

First,
crisis pregnancy centers give women medically inaccurate information
about abortion, claiming the procedure is dangerous and can cause
breast cancer, infertility and extreme mental health problems, such as
suicidal tendencies. There is no legitimate scientific evidence to
support any of these claims. In fact, first-trimester abortions are
among the safest surgical procedures performed in the United States.
Less than 0.5 percent of women obtaining abortions experience a
complication, and the risk of death associated with abortion is about
one-tenth that associated with childbirth. In addition, the medical
community has firmly established that no link exists between abortion
and the development of breast cancer, and that having an abortion does
not affect the psychological well-being of women over time.

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Second,
in an effort to delay a woman’s decision to have an abortion until it
is too late to do so under Virginia law, crisis pregnancy centers often
tell women that they will probably miscarry anyway, so they should wait
to make a decision about what to do. Not only does this effectively
prevent women who want to terminate their pregnancy from exercising
their constitutionally protected right to do so, it also encourages
women who may decide to carry their pregnancy to term to delay seeking
critical prenatal medical care.

Further, in their zealotry,
crisis pregnancy centers frequently fail to maintain the professional
neutrality that is a commonly accepted tenet of counseling. For
example, in an investigative report compiled by NARAL Pro-Choice
Maryland, crisis pregnancy center staff were documented offering
congratulations for a positive pregnancy test, and one crisis pregnancy
center staffer became very aggressive with an investigator and yelled
at her for making a "terrible decision" when she refused to return to
the center. In addition, because crisis pregnancy centers are often
staffed by volunteers who are not medical professionals, they sometimes
give inaccurate information about basic reproductive health issues,
such as the effectiveness of contraception, the difference between
emergency contraception (which prevents pregnancy) and RU-486 (which
causes a medical abortion), and the prevention of sexually transmitted
infections.

Women are entitled to accurate, comprehensive and unbiased medical information with which they can make their own decisions.

If
the anti-choice movement really wanted to reduce the number of
abortions performed in this country, then they would work with the
pro-choice movement to increase access to contraception and
comprehensive sexuality education-real solutions that will lower the
rate of unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion.

Funding
anti-choice centers that manipulate and coerce women does nothing to
accomplish this goal-and make no mistake, the license plates have the
potential to generate thousands of dollars in revenue for these
organizations (Florida’s DMV reports that in that state, the "Choose
Life" license plate generates over $65,000 a month for crisis pregnancy
centers).

We should support legitimate, comprehensive
reproductive healthcare clinics instead of crisis pregnancy centers
whose missions have nothing to do with healthcare and everything to do
with a political agenda. Hopefully, the governor will remember this
when the license plate proposal reaches his desk.

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