In early December, the Michigan House of Representatives passed bill 4759, which would begin the sale of “Choose Life” license plates for the purpose of funneling money to crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide abortions or referrals to abortion clinics. Profits from the new plates would be placed in the new Choose Life Fund and distributed to each county according to the number of plates purchased in that county. As the bill passed the House in a 68-35 vote, it is now up to the Michigan Senate to stop this legislation which will effectively allow the state government to fund-raise for a political cause.

Under this bill, the Secretary of State would develop a license plate bearing the name of the state of Michigan and the phrase “Choose Life,” thereby creating the image that the state government condemns abortion. Such issue-specific campaigning should not be placed on government supported materials. Even though this new license plate would be an optional design offered to registering drivers and purchasing the plate would be a personal decision for each driver, the existence of such a plate imparts more than just the individual”s political opinions it also seemingly imparts the opinion of the state of Michigan. Government institutions, such as the Office of the Secretary of State who issues license plates, are not allowed to have political opinions.

Moreover, if a “Choose Life” plate were offered to the public, a $25 donation fee would be charged on each plate and directed to the Choose Life Fund. This means that the government would be effectively fundraising for a particular political cause. Collecting money to further the priorities of any political opinion that has not been written into legislation is unethical for any government institution, even if an individual freely makes the donation.

If the state were to create this specific fund to funnel money directly to crisis pregnancy centers that do not support abortions, the government would be undermining its own laws which make abortion legal.

If an individual wants to use his or her car to express a particular political opinion, bumper stickers exist expressly for that purpose. It is not the role of the state to create another venue for political expression that seems to speak for the entire government. Even if the state was to offer a challenging license plate bearing the phrase “Choose Choice” and directed profits from the plate to Planned Parenthood and other abortion counseling clinics, the government would still be expressing particular opinions and fundraising for them. As a body, state legislatures do not have the right to post political beliefs, however widely- or narrowly-held, on state materials that could be considered the expression of the entire government.

The Michigan Senate must stop this legislation by rejecting the corresponding bill 0466 and ending concerns that the government would like to begin to campaign and fundraise for specific political issues.

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