Texas House Approves Choose Life License Plate Legislation

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 4, 2011   |   11:21AM   |   Austin, TX

Under a bill the Texas state House approved yesterday, motorists would be able to purchase Choose Life license plates to express their pro-life views and help support programs helping pregnant women.

The House signed off on the Choose Life plate bill, HB 238, on a 94-29 vote. The money generated from the sales of the plates goes to support pregnancy centers that provide women with abortion alternatives and practical pregnancy help and support.

Rep. Larry Phillips, a Republican from Sherman, is the main sponsor of the legislation, which has more than 90-co-sponsors. he said during the debate on the bill that he wanted it to pass without any amendments so it could finally get out of the legislature after previous tries in other years. Democrats offered several amendments attempting to water down the bill or direct the money away from pregnancy centers but Republicans, who control the House, shot them down.

“We’ve tried for many sessions” to get the bill passed,” Phillips said, according to the Texas Observer. “I’m not going to take a chance on not getting it through.”

Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Democrat from Houston, went as far as trying to change the plates from Choose Life to Choose Adoption because she didn’t like the pro-life message they send, calling it “seriously flawed.”

The legislation has the support of the Texas Alliance for Life, a pro-life group. It’s director Joe Pojman said after the vote, “The Choose Life license plate was just passed on 2nd reading! Thank you Rep. Larry Phillips for holding off many hostile amendments and working so hard to pass this bill.”

In 2009, the Texas Senate approved the bill but Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Pickett, an El Paso Democrat, refused to allow a committee vote on the bill.

The Choose Life license plate bill has also been endorsed by Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, as well as more than 40 grassroots organizations. Nearly 15,000 Texas citizens have signed a “Petition for Choose Life license plates,” pledging to purchase the plate when it is made available.

Jonathan Saenz, the legislative director of the Free Market Foundation, also supports the plates.

“The people of Texas have a free speech right to proudly show their support for life and to encourage expectant mothers to choose life instead of abortion,” he told LifeNews.com. “Adoption is one of the loving alternatives to abortion and this specialty plate will help raise money to support such efforts.”

Abortion advocates strongly objected to allowing motorists the chance to purchase license plates supporting adoption and helping pregnant women.

“What we are discussing is neither adoption nor abortion — it is about free speech and this bill’s potential to stifle that right,” Dotty Griffith of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas claimed, according to a Houston Chronicle report.

NARAL also opposed the bill with erroneous claims that pregnancy centers provide women with inaccurate information on how abortion yields mental health and medical risks.

The Choose Life license plate would join the 130-plus available specialty plates currently in Texas.

Russ Amerling, the president of Choose Life Inc., which started the first plates in Florida and helped other states get them, says more than 625,000 vehicles across the country currently bear the plates. He also said the lawsuits abortion advocates have filed in the past against the plates seem to have stopped as lower courts have issued rulings generally favoring the free speech rights of motorists to purchase them. According to the Web site for Choose Life, Inc., a group that promotes “Choose Life” license plates across the country,  26 states have approved such specialty plates. Florida was the first in 2000.

See how your Texas House members voted by going here.