UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 1, 3:50 p.m.: The Democratic-led state Assembly Appropriations Committee effectively killed the bill Friday by failing to vote it out of a legislative limbo known as the “suspense file.”
“Choose Life” license plates in at least 15 states fund crisis pregnancy centers, or fake clinics, that lie to pregnant people and oppose a full spectrum of reproductive health choices. California legislators are bucking this trend with “California Trusts Women” license plates.
New legislation from state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) calls on the state Department of Motor Vehicles to issue the reproductive freedom-themed license plates once 7,500 people order them. The plates would cost $50 initially, and $40 for annual renewals. Revenues would go to the California Reproductive Freedom Fund, and be spent on a full range of health-care services for more than a million low-income Californians in the state’s Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment (Family PACT) program.
“The Trump Administration and Republican Congress are threatening to cut off critical federal funding to reproductive health care services, and we will not stand idly by and let this happen,” Jackson said in a statement announcing SB 309. “This license plate represents one way that we can demonstrate that we will stay true to our values and the right of every woman to safe, affordable and quality reproductive health care.”
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The state Family PACT program provides family planning services to 1.8 million Californians annually and funds Planned Parenthood clinics, according to a statement from Jackson’s office. The program is expected to spend an estimated $340 million on family planning services this fiscal year. Roughly 76 percent of that money comes from the federal government, according the California Department of Health Care Services.
One state, Virginia, has enacted a license plate program that spends money on pro-choice organizations, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America. Twenty-nine states sell “Choose Life” license plates, and 15 states divert revenues from these specialty plates to anti-choice outfits. Other states spend the money on adoption programs or even road repairs, as Quartz recently reported.
North Carolina last year won a court battle with the American Civil Liberties Union over Republican-led plans to issue anti-abortion license plates, as Reuters reported. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled North Carolina could reject pro-choice designs in favor of anti-choice license plates.
The California bill, which was introduced February 13, is awaiting a hearing in the Democratic-held state Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing.
“In California, we support everyone’s right to reproductive health care,” Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, which is sponsoring the measure, said in a statement. “We won’t sit back when that right is threatened by a federal government that is determined to attack abortion providers and jeopardize health care for millions.”