Gov. Lincoln Chafee is expressing skepticism over the General Assembly’s last-minute license plate legislation that created a special anti-abortion ‘Choose Life’ plate.
Chafee spokeswomen Christine Hunsinger says the governor has made no decision yet on whether to veto the measure or let it become law but that he is concerned whether ``it is appropriate for money that flows through the Division of Motor Vehicles to go to a religious organization.’’
Under the legislation, motorists who wanted a `Choose Life’ plate would have to pay a $40 registration surcharge. Half of that surcharge, $20, would go to an anti-abortion counseling service operated by the Knights of Columbus, a religious organization affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Nine hundred motorists would have to buy the plates before the program would begin.
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, which provides women’s health care and abortion, has sent out an `action alert’ urging Rhode Islanders to oppose the Choose Life plate. ``Rather than spending scarce resources on political statements about abortion, the state of Rhode Island should invest in preventive reproductive health services and sex education. Rhode Island can and should do better at preventing unintended pregnancy and funding health coverage for low income families.’’
The Choose Life plate was rammed through the House and Senate at the last minute with scant discussion. It was reportedly done as a gesture to social and religious conservatives who were upset about the enactment in April of same gender marriage. Other states have similar plates and anti-abortion activists say they have passed constitutional muster.
Through his career in Rhode Island politics, Chafee has been a supporter of the Roe V. Wade standard that legalized abortion in the U.S. He has also been a backer of the wall of separation between church and state.