Legislation allowing Alaskans to purchase specialty plates with either pro-life or pro-choice messages was passed by the Alaska Legislature on Feb. 24 and now awaits Gov. Sean Parnell’s signature to become law.
House Bill 19 merged a number of originally separate bills to give Alaskans the option to purchase specialty plates that also could include messages supporting breast cancer awareness, the National Rifle Association and a license plate stating "In God We Trust."
The two most controversial messages, however, are "Choose Life" and "Pro-Family, Pro-Choice."
The "Choose Life" message is intended to promote a general culture of life, according to Senate Majority Leader Kevin Meyer, who introduced the original bill in 2011 with the pro-life message.
In an interview with the Catholic Anchor last year, Meyer noted that he expected resistance from pro-abortion groups -- opposition which he said might demand that the final bill include the option to purchase a license plate with a message that affirms the choice to have an abortion.
In other states Planned Parenthood has tried to block "Choose Life" bills through the courts. In Alaska, Planned Parenthood has not made any public statements against the legislation but last year the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska sent a letter to legislators warning of possible legal issues with the "Choose Life" plates and said a pro-choice message might have to be included.
In the final bill which passed the Alaska Legislature, the Alaska specialty plates would include the image of a baby or small child and be available for an additional $30 over the standard Division of Motor Vehicles fee. Any money collected beyond the amount needed to pay for the program would be appropriated by the legislature to an organization that promotes adoptions.
Money collected from the "Pro-Family, Pro-Choice" plates would go to the Alaska Children's Trust, a state savings account that issues grants to programs aimed at preventing child abuse.
According to the Web site for Choose Life, Inc., a national group that promotes "Choose Life" license plates across the country, 26 states have approved such specialty plates. Florida was the first in 2000.
Original supporters of the Florida effort sought the plates to help raise funds and awareness in support of women in crisis pregnancies. The goal has been to help women commit to carrying their unborn babies to term and make an adoption plan for them instead of aborting them.
Once Florida approved the plates, similar efforts expanded nationally.
This article originally appeared in the Catholic Anchor, the newspaper of the archdiocese of Anchorage, and is republished here with permission.