MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker is again pushing a bill to create anti-abortion license plates to generate money for crisis pregnancy centers, drawing the ire of abortion rights supporters still smarting from new GOP restrictions on providers.
Rep. Andre Jacque's proposal would create plates that read "Choose Life" and feature an image of an infant's footprint. Purchasers would have to pay both the annual $75 vehicle registration fee and a $15 special plate fee. On top of that, they'd have to pay another $25 that would go to Choose Life Wisconsin Inc., a corporation that anti-abortion groups Wisconsin Family Action and Pro-Life Wisconsin have set up to funnel money to crisis pregnancy centers' adoption programs.
Jacque, R-De Pere, said 29 other states offer similar anti-abortion license plates.
"This is certainly a cause that is worthy of support," Jacque said. "It's supporting women and children."
Jacque introduced a similar bill at the end of the last session but it went nowhere. The new measure's prospects look murky as well.
The Assembly transportation committee has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for Tuesday afternoon but a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Senate Republicans haven't discussed the measure and it's not on what he called "the fast track." A spokesman for Republican Gov. Scott Walker was noncommittal, saying the governor would evaluate the bill if it reached his desk.
Republicans went through a bruising fight this summer to pass a sweeping measure requiring women seeking abortions to get ultrasounds and abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, became so enraged at minority Democrats during debate that he banged his gavel hard enough to break the base.
Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services have challenged the admitting privileges provision in federal court, alleging it would force two abortion clinics in Appleton and Milwaukee to close because providers at the facilities lack such privileges. U.S. District Judge William Conley issued a preliminary injunction blocking the mandate; state attorneys have appealed.
Democrats and abortion rights organizations said Republicans have spent too much time on extreme proposals that trample women's privacy and health. They contend pregnancy crisis centers don't give women accurate information about abortion and birth control and the bill is really about funding Republican lawmakers' key supporters.
"It is beyond inappropriate for the state to officially partner with organizations like Wisconsin Family Action and Pro-Life Wisconsin, whose extreme agendas are out of touch with Wisconsinites and undermine women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care," Jenni Dye, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, said in a statement Monday.
Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, denied pregnancy centers supply any misinformation, dismissing the allegations as "hype." The plates are a legitimate way to raise money for the centers, she said. People who choose to purchase the license plates would know exactly where the money is going and how it will be used, she said.
Jacque pointed out Assembly Democrats introduced a bill at the end of the last session that would have created special license plates for Planned Parenthood. The proposal never got a vote.
"If there's any controversy attached to this," Jacque said, "they're the ones injecting it."