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The choice side wants a license plate, too
By SUE CARLTON
Published January 5, 2007
Today in Orlando, the National Organization for Women unveils its proposed pro-choice Florida license plate.
This specialty tag will tout neither frolicking dolphins nor roaming panthers, but a woman's right to choose.
NOW also kicks off a campaign to gather signatures from 30,000 Florida car owners who will say they would support the tag. They're already at work raising the $60,000 application fee.
The new plate will need a thumbs up from the Legislature and a sign-off by the governor. Supporters hope pro-choice plates will one day be bolted to Volvos and Volkswagens from the Panhandle to the Keys.
Wait just a second, some of you might be saying.
Why should the state make a license plate touting one side in one of the most divisive issues around?
Answer: Because we already do. And turnabout is fair play.
Florida offers up more than 100 specialty plates for an extra cost. We drive around showing our love for largemouth bass, sea turtles and the Miami Dolphins.
Besides boosterism, we sport our causes: We want to Keep Kids Drug Free, Stop Heart Disease, Salute Firefighters, End Breast Cancer, Invest in Children.
Not much to argue about there.
But back in 1999, then-Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law a real duke-it-out plate. You know the one. Decorated with childlike drawings of kids' faces, it says "Choose Life," that carefully crafted phrase long a part of the abortion debate.
Proceeds go to programs for pregnant women that support adoption but not abortion as an alternative.
No question, the plate was a hit. By 2005, more than 42,000 Choose Life tags had been sold, making it the eighth most popular specialty tag in the state. (No empirical evidence here - maybe it's just me - but does it seem like it's usually a man driving?)
Anyway, the state appearing to stamp its seal of approval on the anti-side was a bad idea.
If you don't think so, imagine a new government-produced tag promoting the exact opposite of your view on something you take to heart. Support Life: End the Death Penalty. More Taxes Mean More Services. Pay-Your-Obscene-Insurance-Bills-And-Escalating-Property-Taxes-And-Quit-Your-Whining.
This is not about the First Amendment. Slap on nearly any bumper sticker you want, the risk of road rage and potential for car-keying notwithstanding. (On a recent trip across the bay, I saw everything from "Support Our Troops" to "Support Our Troops - Bring Them Home" to, I'm not making this up, "Germany Supported Its Troops, Too.")
The problem is government sanctioning one side in a bitter battle and getting into politics through plates.
Probably as the pro-choice tag makes its way through the process, we'll witness some resistance, some gnashing of teeth. Maybe there's a lesson in there: No more one-sided, state-backed sentiments on our cars. The world changes, and you might not like the next slogan.
But given our history, is there any good reason a tag touting the other side should not come to pass?
Pardon the expression, but then drivers really will have a choice.