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Kansas governor nixes 'Choose Life' plates

By The Associated Press

04.26.02

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Kansas Gov. Bill Graves vetoed a bill late last week authorizing license plates with the phrase "Choose Life," saying vehicle tags should not be used as moving billboards for editorial comment.

Graves said April 18 that the tags are a tool to help law enforcement identify vehicles, not a medium for making political statements.

Under the bill, state residents would pay the $40 fee for specialty plates plus an additional $25 to $100 for a trust fund established by Kansans for Life, the state's largest anti-abortion group, to finance adoption efforts.

"It's a shame the governor bought into the abortion industry's paranoia ... and vetoed this," said Mary Kay Culp, acting director of Kansans for Life.

The bill passed the Senate 21-19 in February and won House approval, 64-59, earlier this month. Overriding the veto would require two-thirds majorities in both chambers.

Culp said Kansans for Life will bring the bill before lawmakers again next year.

Meanwhile, a bill to permit a Choose Life license plate in Oklahoma is still alive in the state Legislature.

The House-passed measure was thought to be dead for the session when it was not heard in a Senate committee prior to a legislative deadline two weeks ago.

But an amendment by Sen. Jim Williamson, R-Tulsa, was placed in another bill by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson, R-Oklahoma City. The Wilcoxson bill passed the Senate on April 24 without debate.

The amended bill creates a Choose Life specialty license plate that can be purchased for a fee of $25 by anyone "who wishes to demonstrate support of organizations that encourage adoption as a positive choice for women with unplanned pregnancies."

Under the proposal, a fund will be set up for the Department of Human Services to distribute money to nonprofit organizations for counseling and other needs of pregnant women "who are committed to placing their children for adoption."

Rep. Thad Balkman, R-Norman, principal author of the original House bill, said an intense lobbying effort by supporters of the bill led to Senate approval.

He said hundreds of people signed petitions in support of the Choose Life license plate, and they were presented to Senate leaders.

Similar laws have been passed in other states and are under legal attack from abortion-rights advocates. Planned Parenthood Inc. argues "choose life" is an anti-choice slogan.

Balkman's bill passed the House earlier on a 99-0 vote. He said it should pass easily on a second vote, although "I can see a few guys switching their votes now that it is a real deal."

Wilcoxson said some lawmakers do not like the Choose Life license plate because it carries a political message.

She said she thinks "it's important that people can make these kind of statements, politically. That's what they call free speech."

Update

Abortion-rights activists criticize new Oklahoma 'Choose Life' plates
'By producing plates that are pro-life, the government is authorizing unconstitutional speech by opponents of abortion,' says Planned Parenthood representative.  05.25.02

Related

'Choose Life' plates opponents ask full appeals court to hear case
5th Circuit panel had sent case back to lower court with instructions to dismiss, saying plaintiffs didn't have standing to sue Louisiana.  04.16.02

Abortion-rights group challenges Florida's 'Choose Life' plates
Federal lawsuit says process for distributing funds from tag sales violates church-state separation, free speech.  01.21.02

Federal judge throws out challenge to Florida's 'Choose Life' plates
Court says abortion-rights groups lack sufficient evidence to back claims that fee-distribution process violates church-state separation, free speech.  07.19.02

S.C. 'Choose Life' license plates put on hold
Federal judge grants preliminary injunction sought by Planned Parenthood.  11.20.01

Federal appeals court won't reinstate challenge to 'Choose Life' plates
Attorney for Louisiana abortion-rights supporters says he's 'strongly considering' appeal to Supreme Court.  08.13.02

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