The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday December 5th

Bill Would Allow Special Pro-Life License Plates

Rep. Mitch Gillespie, R-McDowell, who proposed the bill, said it will help centers like the Tri-County Pregnancy Center, which located in his district and is struggling to remain afloat.

The specialty license plate, which will be distributed on a county-to-county basis, will be a regular blue-and-white plate with caricatures of two children's faces beside the words "Choose Life" in childlike lettering, Gillespie said.

"We are not federally funded and depend solely on private donations from churches, organizations and individuals," the center's spokeswoman Sue Wold said.

If this bill passes, Wold said the center's portion of the proceeds would be used to temporarily house homeless expectant mothers, buy maternity clothing and preserve much-needed parenting programs.

"Our goal is to emotionally and physically prepare pregnant women to have children," Wold said. "We provide an alternative to abortion."

But Gillespie added that there was no way to know if the bill would pass.

"I'm pushing for it, but we'll have to wait and see. If it doesn't make it this time, I'll be back, doing the same thing until I get it," he said.

There are already about 135 types of specialty plates in North Carolina. Almost 272,000 specialty plates can be seen on the state's highways.

"If 'Save the Whales' and 'Sons of the Confederacy' can have specialty tags, so can 'pro-life'," Gillespie said. "This is a matter of civil rights."

Gillespie said he would not be surprised if pro-choice supporters responded by seeking a specialty plate of their own. "If they want to do that, it's fine with me. I wouldn't vote for it, though," he said.

Rep. Bob Hensley, D-Wake, an opponent of the pro-life specialty plate bill, said he wouldn't vote for any similar bills, regardless of the messages the plates carry.

"If people want to advertise their political views, social contacts, or religious organizations, that is fine, that is their First Amendment right as freedom of speech," Hensley said. "But this right should not be exercised at the state's expense."

Hensley said his opposition rests on the fact that specialized plates change the standard type and reduce the size of license plate letters and numbers, making it more difficult for law enforcement officials to read the plate.

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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