A bill filed by state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, that aims to rewrite the law governing Florida’s “Choose Life” specialty license plates moves to the Senate Transportation Committee today, but not without some subtle changes.

Fasano yesterday filed an amendment to his bill that he hopes will expand the benefits to pregnant women receiving the funds.

As the law is now written, only women who are “committed to placing their children up for adoption” can receive funds made off the sale of the plates. Fasano’s bill would change that language slightly, giving money only to assist women who are ”making an adoption plan for their children.”

Seventy percent of the funds currently must go to providing for the material needs of pregnant women, including items such as clothing, housing, medical care, food, utilities, and transportation. Fasano’s bill would eliminate that 70/30 split, allowing Choose Life, Inc. to use the funds for anti-abortion counseling or crisis pregnancy centers that are often accused of disseminating false information.

But Fasano’s amendment stipulates that should Choose Life, Inc. gives money go to a women’s agency, the funds can go further than before in meeting the physical needs of pregnant women. The bill will now read that the money can go to providing for needs “including, but not limited to, items such as clothing, housing, medical care, food, utilities, and transportation.” [Emphasis added.]

The original bill limited the funds to only clothing, housing, medical care, food, utilities, and transportation. The addition of the “not limited to” means that the money could go to other materials needs of pregnant women. Fasano’s bill also allows funds to be expended on women for up to 60 days following their delivery, and on the infants awaiting adoptive placement.

“We added in the line ‘but not limited to.’ It might not seem like much, but this will ensure that the funds don’t go to a finite list of items,” says Greg Giordano, Fasano’s chief legislative assistant. “There are some concerns that without that phrase, the list would be limited. Things come up that you don’t anticipate. We want to make sure that money can go above and beyond … as long as it meets the material needs of pregnant women.”

So why eliminate the stipulation that 70 percent of all “Choose Life” funds go toward meeting the physical needs of women?

“What happens in the areas where a center doesn’t have many women making adoption plans? By striking the 70/30 split, that money can still be sent to those centers, but used for other purposes,” says Giordano. “It gives flexibility to the pregnancy clinics without sacrificing the needs of women. The women will still come first, but this way … the money can go towards something, rather than just sit unused.”

See the fully amended bill here.

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