Plans to rewrite the law governing Florida’s “Choose Life” license plates have led pregnancy centers currently receiving funds to worry that portions of the new law would be not only unenforceable but unfair. Planned Parenthood says the law could “open the floodgates” for organizations falsely advertising themselves as “crisis pregnancy centers.”
Now, the Florida branch of the ACLU says that a rewrite is not only unnecessary but that it could allow for the funding of “anti-abortion propaganda.”
Currently, money made off the specialty plate sales goes directly to individual Florida counties, which then distribute it to pregnancy centers aimed at helping women planning to put their babies up for adoption.
Some small counties don’t have pregnancy centers that meet the criteria, so small amounts of money can go unused. State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is aiming to change that with Senate Bill 196 (.pdf), which would mandate that plate funds go directly to Choose Life, Inc., which would use a portion of the funds for publicity purposes and send the rest to pregnancy centers.
Though many applaud Fasano’s efforts to reduce the portion of funds that may go unused by small counties, still others worry that a changed law will reduce the portion of funds that go to meet the physical needs of pregnant women.
Current law states that at least 70 percent of the funds made off the plates go to providing for women making an adoption plan for their unborn children. Only 30 percent or less can go to the oft-criticized crisis pregnancy centers that The Florida Independent has found to often disseminate misleading information about abortion. But Fasano’s rewrite does away with the 70/30 split and doesn’t specify what portion of the funds must go to providing for the material needs of women.
“The legislature promised that the funds from these plates would be used to provide adoption resources — to actually increase the number of adoptive homes for children in Florida,” says Danielle Prendergast, public policy director of ACLU Florida. “Now they’re trying to break that promise, and it looks like they want to use the state as a pass-through to fund anti-abortion propaganda. The bottom line is: There’s no need to change the way the funds are used. This is a solution in search of a problem.”
“It’s really very offensive to a prospective mother to [say] that this bill is promulgating propaganda,” says Greg Giordano, Fasano’s chief legislative aide, when asked about Prendergast’s comments. “The bill is very clear in its intent to encourage greater care for women and their children and not, as this individual said, use the state as a ‘pass-through.’”
Giordano stresses that, in addition to doing away with the 70/30 split, the law would also expand care for the birth mother, allowing them to use funds for 60 days after they give birth.
“There’s no propaganda involved,” he says. “If you look at the language of the bill, it makes it pretty clear that it’s encouraging the care of the mother prior to making the adoption plan, but also after the birth of the child. The thought that this encourages propaganda… it’s quite the opposite. It encourages women, allows them opportunities to get the assistance they need to put children up for adoption.”