Georgia Choose Life Plate Effort Kicks Into High Gear

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 13, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Georgia Choose Life Plate Effort Kicks Into High Gear

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
October 13, 2003

Atlanta, GA ( — Some Georgia lawmakers are accelerating the drive to bring pro-life license plates to their state.

They’re promoting a bill that would create a new specialty auto tag that could mean fewer abortions and more adoptions.

State Rep. Jack White (R-Blue Ridge) told a Catoosa County newspaper the plates would not be a statement against abortion per se, but would simply promote alternatives to abortion.

White told the Catoosa County News, "It’s not about abortion or an abortion debate; it’s about helping women, kids, and parents. I’m not out crusading; I’m out to help families in my district."

Money raised from the sale of the tags would go into a trust fund that would benefit adoption agencies and pregnancy help centers.

In pursuing the "choose life" license plate idea, White is following the lead of Russ Amerling, spokesman for Choose Life, a non-profit organization that raised the funds and collected the signatures needed to promote the plates in Florida.

"Georgia’s unique method of approving specialty plates requires legislative approval and then voter ratification at the polls the following year," Amerling told "Choose Life, Inc. believes the opportunity to approve this plate should be afforded Georgia’s citizens. Current estimates indicate this plate would raise $350,000 a year for adoption efforts in Georgia."

Under Georgia law, funds from sales of auto tags must go directly into the state’s general fund. In order to direct the money to a special cause, a Constitutional Amendment must be approved.

Choose Life reports that the plates can now be found on cars in seven states, and fifteen state legislatures are currently considering the idea. Three states that have pursued the "choose life" plates have also been hit by lawsuits from pro-abortion groups. Amerling dismisses the lawsuits as scare tactics and notes that the plates have been successful in promoting adoption. In Florida, for instance, adoptions have risen since the tags were approved and nearly two million dollars has been raised for abortion alternatives.

White believes the tags could be a real moneymaker in Georgia, but he concedes that some legislators are likely to attempt to politicize the issue. "If the position of my colleagues on the left is that they desire for abortion to be rare, then this is their legislation," White told the Catoosa County newspaper.

Abortions are not rare in Georgia. In 2001, some 33,545 abortions were performed there.

"This in no way restricts abortions and should not be squelched or compromised by individuals who are pro-abortion minded," White said. "If they want to have a tag that supports their world view, then have at it.

"It does not infringe on anyone’s First Amendment rights," he said. "It’s a free exercise of First Amendment rights. Case law has already been set by the Supreme Court which did not consider it an infringement (of first amendment rights)."

White notes that a precedent for specialty plates in Georgia has already been set. Money from the sale of University of Georgia, Georgia Wildlife, and Sons of Confederate Veterans goes directly to specific organizations.

The "choose life" tag has been introduced in a Georgia General Assembly House committee and plans are underway to push for a vote on the measure in the 2004 legislative session.

Another backer of the proposal, State Representative Ron Forster (R-Ringgold) said the license plate sends an important message.

"Life is vitally important and in our society if we keep devaluing life our society goes into a downturn. You’ve got to value children; it’s not just survival of the fittest."