Beginning in early January, Virginia Chamlee tracked progress of a Florida bill created to redirect how money raised through the sale of the state’s “Choose Life” license plates is distributed. The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, was written to remove rules stipulating that at least 70 percent of the money go to meet the physical needs of pregnant women, leaving the controversial organization Choose Life, Inc., free to spend the money on anti-abortion advertising and counseling.
In her reporting, Chamlee surfaced important questions about Fasano’s legislation: whether the plates are “really about adoption or abortion”; how pregnancy centers were questioning the intent of Choose Life, Inc.; and whether “Choose Life” funds would be used to fund “anti-abortion propaganda,” in Florida or elsewhere.
In response to Chamlee’s reporting, Fasano offered a series of amendments to his bill to address some of the questions her work raised.
In mid-March, Fasano tweaked the bill’s language to ensure there were no restrictions on the physical needs of pregnant women that could be used with the program’s funds. He further amended the bill to require that all “Choose Life” funds remain in Florida — preventing the money from funding anti-abortion-rights causes nationwide — and he added another that reduced the proportion of funds that Choose Life, Inc. may spend on advertising and administration, from 20 percent to 15 percent.
Fasano’s legislative aide told Chamlee that the senator’s moves were a direct result of questions she had raised through her coverage.