The Choose Life license plate transforms cars into mobile billboards, starts conversations about life-affirming options and serves as a sign to women in an unexpected or difficult pregnancy.
That’s not all the license plates do in 29 states and the District of Columbia. The Choose Life plates also have generated more than $21 million for pregnancy help centers, maternity homes and adoption services since they first became available in 2000.
One woman told a counselor at a Tampa, Fla., pregnancy center that she was on her way to have an abortion when she saw several Choose Life plates during her 10-mile drive. When she arrived at the abortion clinic, she told the counselor out front, “You are a sign and seal that what I was about to do was wrong.”
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That’s just one of many testimonies that Choose Life America, Inc., is proud to share about its impact. The organization formed nearly 20 years ago with hopes of using license plate sales to help fund efforts for prenatal care for women considering adoption services and to help pro-life pregnancy centers.
“There’s about 60,000 (Choose Life) license plates on the road, and if 20 people see these plates every day that’s 1.2 million people who see the positive message to Choose Life and the smiling children,” said Dr. Elizabeth Rex, President of The Children First Foundation. “Multiply that by 365 days, and a Choose Life license plate is probably the single most important thing everyone in the pro-life movement can do. It’s so simple. It’s so effective. It’s not a substantial investment to make a substantial difference.
“You’ll never know how many lives your plate could save. Women agonize over the decision to have an abortion every day and pray for a sign. And your license plate could be the sign.”
Putting that simple statement “Choose Life” with an important message on a license plate was the idea of Randy Harris, a County Commissioner from in Ocala, Fla., had in 1996, said Russ Amerling, publicity coordinator for Choose Life America.
Amerling met Harris at a pro-life rally for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 1997, and the two have been working toward promoting the plates ever since.
Creating these license plates in many states has been a long battle, marred with legislative hurdles, vetoes and dozens of lawsuits and even a recent Supreme Court decision. The struggles have kept the plate off the road in states like New York, where Dr. Rex has fought for 15 years.
According to Amerling, the original plate wasn’t approved in Florida until four years after its inception.
Since 2000, Choose Life is close to one million “plate years,”Amerling said. There’s no real way to know how many new plates were purchased as opposed to renewed each year, he said, so “plate years” is number of plates purchased or renewed for a year term. The number the DMVs report to Choose Life America is based on the plate’s revenue.
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That revenue goes to places like Heart to Heart Pregnancy Center in Fort Smith, Ark. In just two years of receiving revenue from the license plates, the center was able to help eight women as a direct result of the program, according to a testimonial to Choose Life America. Those women included rape victims considering adoption, a pregnant college student and other women considering adoption. The center was able to help them with counseling, rent, transportation, food, clothing and medical bills.
“All of these babies are now in wonderful homes,” the testimonial reads. “We have seen the success of the Choose Life program in operation.”
Charles and Elizabeth Rex, adoptive parents of two children, started The Children First Foundation in New York in the year 2000, the same year the Choose Life license plate was first sold in Florida. At first, she and her husband, a world-renowned violinist, held small fundraising recitals and their organization would donate a few thousand dollars at a time to pregnancy centers.
“We named our organization The Children First Foundation to honor all of the heroic birth parents who put the lives of their ‘children first.’ It’s such a courageous decision for them to ‘choose life’ and then lovingly make an adoption plan for an unplanned pregnancy.”
The following year, Rex said she saw a picture of Florida’s new Choose Life plate in the National Catholic Register with a caption about it raising $300,000 for pregnancy centers. The Rexes reached out and partnered with Amerling with the hopes of bringing the plate to New York.
While they are still fighting that legal battle, The Children First Foundation has successfully sponsored Choose Life license plates in Connecticut, New Jersey, the District of Columbia and is now working on Vermont and Rhode Island.
“Being rejected in New York actually spurred us to expand into other states. Looking back, it was a clearly a blessing in disguise,” Dr. Rex said. “God has blessed us with this cross and we’ll never give up. Everyone deserves to be able to ‘take a stand for life’ and raise much needed awareness and funding for pregnancy centers by purchasing Choose Life plates for all their cars. It’s called Freedom of Speech and Equal Protection under the Law. ”
The Choose Life plates are not identical in every state because each have their own regulations, but the smiling children’s faces and the words “Choose Life” appear on most of them, Amerling said.
“We did a very unscientific poll when we tried to get it approved in Florida,” Amerling said. “We talked to people who were interested in the plates if they would buy one that said ‘Support Adoption’ or other phrases and more people wanted ‘Choose Life’ than all other variations combined. We felt it was a better slogan because it embraced not only the life of the child but the overall theme of life in our culture where death is pervasive.”
Choose Life America is the non-profit organization that helps other states set up Choose Life plates. The process differs from state to state and while there can be a lot of initial opposition to the approval of the pro-life, pro-adoption message of the plates it is certainly well worth the effort, Amerling said.
“The Choose Life plates and their life-saving message are so beautiful,” Dr. Rex said. “Thousands of people are now proudly promoting adoption as a good choice for an unwanted pregnancy and together we are helping to ‘mobilize’ a greater culture of life in this nation.”
Visit http://www.choose-life.org/ and click on your state in order to purchase and learn more about the Choose Life license plates, including how you can get involved and help bring it to your state if it’s not available yet. Also, consider purchasing Choose Life license plate frames for all your cars and trucks if your state does not yet have the plate. Your Choose Life plate or frame could save many babies’ lives.