Enough license plates

Monday, February 23, 2004

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

We're all for free speech. The more the merrier. But revving up the abortion debate every time we pull out of the driveway?

Missouri state Rep. Larry Crawford, R-California, is pushing a "Respect Life" license plate bill in the Missouri Legislature.

Drivers who want the plate would pony up $25, which would be deposited in the Missouri Alternatives to Abortion Support Fund.

That money would go to help women cope with unplanned pregnancies.

Not to be outdone, Sen. Joan Bray, D-University City, is pushing for a pro-choice plate saying "Freedom Choice"; money from the sale of this plate would go into the Missouri Freedom Choice Support Fund. The money would be used for family planning grants but not abortion services.

Let's see how this scenario would play out.

The legislature is strongly anti-abortion, so it probably would pass only Mr. Crawford's anti-abortion plate. That would guarantee a lawsuit. A judge would have to decide if a state can support one side in the political debate and force the other side to stare at it. And, as the King of Siam once said, "Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera."

Missouri has done license plates. We already have 140 different kinds, supporting everything from child-abuse prevention to Mizzou football to fearless firefighters to conservation -- nothing terribly contentious or truly divisive. In the interest of preventing road rage and not pouring more fuel on an annual debate that produces more heat than light in the legislature, maybe we could agree to keep abortion off our plates.

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