Monday, August 31, 2009

Choose Life: The Latest License Plate Trend


As in many states, here in New Jersey you can express yourself through your automobile license plate. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission lets you proudly display your alma mater, your military service branch, or you can support your cause—Conserve Wildlife, Shore to Please, Conquer Cancer. Until I read about it in the August 30 Sunday Star-Ledger, I was blissfully ignorant of a six-year battle between the state and the Children First Foundation. CFF, a pro-adoption, anti-abortion organization based in New York, wants New Jersey automobile license plates to promote their cause with “Choose Life” written in a childlike scrawl alongside a doodle of kids’ faces. The fees raised from the license plates would go to crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes and nonprofit adoption agencies selected by the Children First Foundation. [Italics mine]

There went my quiet Sunday morning. The screaming inside my head turned into out loud profanity. The first thing that came to mind was that any time I see a “Choose Life” bumper sticker (usually on a minivan) I want to roll down my window and scream at the driver, “And are YOU going to provide emotional and financial support to the woman facing a crisis pregnancy who chooses life?!” Then I remembered the chill I’d get up my spine when I’d see the pro-life groups march in local parades with their banners and red roses as though they were a royal procession. For the past several years I’ve been taunted by a large billboard on a two-lane highway I travel enroute to relatives in northeast Pennsylvania—“Choose Life…Your Mother Did.” And then I remembered that those special, chosen babies grow up to be adults who have to fight for the right to access their original birth certificates.

CFF’s lawyer claims that the state agency refused to allow the plates simply because it didn’t agree with the message. The state’s policy is that it doesn’t allow plates that it considers politically motivated. Make no mistake—this is political. And more importantly, it’s personal. While most of my fellow birthmothers did not have a choice, today—until further notice—a woman still has the right to decide what to do with her own body.

Elizabeth Rex, president of the Children First Foundation, defends her side of the argument by saying the CFF slogan is “Adoption is the best choice,” not “Choose Life.” The adopted mother of two children, she decided she wanted to support women with unwanted pregnancies in making that decision. Thanks to Lorraine's previous blog topic, we’ve all been enlightened as to just how “supportive” CFF and similar organizations are.

As for Ms. Rex’s intention to support women with “unwanted” pregnancies, I’d like to smack her. I suspect women dealing with truly unwanted pregnancies make a difficult, different choice early on, so defining their pregnancies as “unwanted” must be wishful thinking on her part. While my pregnancy was unplanned, it was not “unwanted.” My child’s 20 year old father and I agreed we would become parents, and then he changed his mind when I was 5-1/2 months pregnant. I had a choice, and wasn’t afraid to stand up for myself. I was not forced to choose adoption, but I did not receive any offers of financial or social service assistance, either, so that left me—a single, pregnant 19-year-old college sophomore with minimum wage job prospects—with very few options.

The article further reports that 22 states already have Choose Life plates; thankfully, I've never spotted one on the interstates I travel regularly throughout the northeast. Choose Life Inc., the Florida based organization that started the nationwide campaign, has raised over $6 million there from at least 40,000 drivers. Are there any FMF readers from the Choose Life states who were aware the program exists and is sanctioned by their state government? If so, are you comfortable supporting the program? New York and Illinois, thankfully, are facing legal issues of their own. Last year a federal judge said Illinois had the right to restrict content on its own license plates. Choose Life Inc. has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

$6 million. Imagine what we could be doing with that money if it was earmarked to support planned parenthood rather than adoption. We could fund sex education programs, provide easily accessible and affordable contraception and counseling, and offer family preservation support for single women or women of limited means who wish to assume the challenges of parenthood.

Yes, I chose life. And I’ve been slammed by adoption. I’m reminded of it daily and have paid a very dear price for that decision. It’s a debt that compounds interest and will never be paid in full—I’ve lost a daughter, grandchildren, and even a sister because I chose life. I don’t need to be reminded of it while stuck in traffic behind a minivan sporting a cute license plate commanding me to Choose Life.

7 comments :

  1. BRAVO! I hear you and wish there was a way we could simply start a class action suit against the individual states for failure to provide support and family assistance to single parent families that ended in an adoption situation. It isn't about the kids - it is about the fact that now our children are no even allowed the right to a name, their own name.

    Crikies, you hit that one square!

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  2. I'm glad they don't allow that in UK (where I live).

    It would drive me nuts.

    In the UK, they are very strict about the registration plates - you are not allowed slogans of any kind on them. Only plain letters and numbers are allowed, period.

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  3. "I don’t need to be reminded of it while stuck in traffic behind a minivan sporting a cute license plate commanding me to Choose Life."

    Yup, it really bugs me that it's in the imperative.
    Did you also know there's a subliminal codicil that says "or you will perish in Hell Fire" .
    This is a true rumor.
    Pass it on.

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  4. I live in NJ too and hope never to see this plate, especially since the proceeds go to Christian adoption agencies.

    I like the animal welfare plate with the cute dog and kitty. That is some adoption I can really support.

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  6. We have a plain "Respect Life" plate here in Colorado with a Columbine flower in the middle. Obviously, that plate came to be after the "Columbine Incident". For me however, I always think of the pro-lifers when I see those plates. Maybe that was the state's intent all along...On a side note, I have often found it ironic that 99.9% of those who chose to have these plates, are by far , THE WORST drivers! How fitting! Nothing says "I respect life" like weaving through traffic at a high rate of speed & putting others at risk..

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