National Partnership for Women & Families

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Wis. officials give final approval to antiabortion-rights license plates

Wisconsin officials on Nov. 30 gave final approval to antiabortion-rights license plates, proceeds from which will be funneled to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), the Wisconsin Public Radio reports.

Details on license plates

According to Wisconsin Public Radio, state lawmakers earlier this year passed legislation (Act 227) that permits any organization to request approval from the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for specialty license plates. Under the law, groups who get a specialty license plate approved have to pay $15,500 for production costs and keep at least 500 plates on the road each year (Kaeding, Wisconsin Public Radio, 12/9).

Following the law's implementation, Choose Life Wisconsin, a corporation formed by two antiabortion-rights organizations, filed a request with the state DMV for approval for a specialty plate with antiabortion-rights language.

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin DMV opened a 30-day comment period on the antiabortion-rights license plates, during which the officials received 26 formal complaints. The DMV referred the plates to transportation legislative committees after the comment period ended on Nov. 13. On Nov. 30, lawmakers in the state's transportation committees did not say DMV had to review the plates further, meaning the plates were given final approval.

State residents will be able to purchase the plates within 12 months. According the Green Bay Press Gazette, yearly donations of $25 for license issuance and renewal will be allocated to CPCs in Madison, Milwaukee and Appleton (Safran, Green Bay Press Gazette, 12/8).

NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin lambasts plates

Eliza Cussen, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, expressed concern over the plates, noting that CPCs use misleading tactics to dissuade women from seeking abortion care. "[I]t can be a good thing when large organizations and government bodies facilitate charitable giving, ... But, what we have to consider in this case is that Choose Life Wisconsin is no ordinary charity," Cussen said. She added, "This is an organization that does real social harm that is centered around restricting the human rights of women."

Cussen also cited the political situation in which the plates were approved. She explained that there are 79 CPCs in the state and only three abortion clinics, located in Madison and Milwaukee. Another abortion clinic, in Appleton, shut down a few months ago.

"We've had state funding for Planned Parenthood completely stripped," she said, adding, "We've had federal funding for Planned Parenthood and any other clinic that refers to abortion services stripped and redirected. If you provide reproductive health care and mention that abortion is an option, you lose federal funding. What we see is a very distinguishable trend and a bias within government and its agencies."

Discussing how best to address the situation, Cussen suggested that abortion-rights supporters take a proactive approach and present state residents with alternatives, such as license plates that support abortion rights (Wisconsin Public Radio, 12/9).