LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan drivers could help fund an anti-abortion group by buying “Choose Life” license plates under a bill the state Senate passed Wednesday along a party-line vote.
The Senate voted 26-11 in favor of the bill, which would allow the state to sell the specialty plates for a $10 per-plate service fee and a $25 per-plate contribution that would go to the Choose Life Fund. Right to Life of Michigan, which works to curtail abortion rights, would approve the Choose Life Michigan committee that administers the funds.
The bill now moves to the House for consideration. Similar “Choose Life” license plate legislation has been introduced in previous sessions, but it failed. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder hasn’t said whether he would support the bill.
Democratic opponents of the bill say it would only allow Michigan drivers to support one side of the abortion rights debate.
“This would be the first and most politically blatant license plate that we would have in this state,” said Sen. Rebekah Warren, an Ann Arbor Democrat.
“Let’s not put political speech on our license plates. Buy a bumper sticker,” she added.
Bill sponsor Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Canton Republican, said “Choose Life” plates would support “life-saving programs” that promote alternatives to abortions. He said the funds raised by plate sales would help support the needs of mothers by providing things such as diapers, gas money and other resources.
The money could not go toward lobbying efforts.
Democrats failed to pass several amendments to the bill, including one that would have created a fundraising license plate for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions, among other health services.
Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, a Taylor Democrat, offered that amendment and another that he said would direct the funds raised by the “Choose Life” plate to organizations that directly support the life and health of Michigan women and children.
Sen. Steve Bieda, a Democrat from Warren, offered an amendment that would have directed the funds toward reducing infant mortality.
All three amendments offered by Democrats were voted down along party lines.
Michigan provides fundraising license plates for causes including K-12 agriculture education programs, Boy Scouts of America, wildlife habitat conservation, and the state’s 15 public colleges and universities.
“Choose Life” plates are allowed in 29 other states and the District of Columbia, but specialty license plates are the subject of two cases being fought in other states.
The Supreme Court is taking on a free speech case over a proposed license plate in Texas that would feature the Confederate battle flag. The case involves the government’s ability to choose among the political messages it allows drivers to display on state-issued license plates.
The court did not act on a second, similar appeal from North Carolina. That case centers on a court ruling blocking the use of the “Choose Life” plate in North Carolina because the state refused to also issue a specialty plate in favor of abortion rights.
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