Passing the Plate 

A state rep seeks his pro-life license.

State Representative Ron Young believes his bill is harmless enough. He wants Ohio to issue commemorative license plates embossed with the phrase "Choose Life."

"I think it's good that we can introduce positive messages into a culture that sorely needs them these days," says the Painesville Republican. "It seems to me a life-affirming, upbeat message."

Some colleagues don't find it so innocuous. They say the plate would amount to state sponsorship of the pro-life movement, that it would bring politics to Ohio's lineup of 110 specialized plates. Representative Annie Key, a Cleveland Democrat, even implied that smoldering passions over abortion might put motorists' lives at risk.

But Young says foes are overreacting. This isn't a call to pro-life forces, he argues. "They make the inference that 'choose life' is anti-abortion. That's not the way that it was designed." It speaks of the general preciousness of life, he asserts, noting that the bill is supported by groups battling suicide, euthanasia, and capital punishment.

Young is, of course, being a bit disingenuous. While others may be jumping on the bandwagon, $15 from each plate sold would go to Heartbeat International, an umbrella group for crisis pregnancy centers. There is no money earmarked for the Don't Whack Yourself Society.

Yet Ohio wouldn't be the first to bring the pro-life message to license plates. Florida and Louisiana passed Choose Life bills; 26 other states are examining the issue. And while most of Ohio's commemorative plates tout colleges and universities, some feature politically charged organizations. There's a plate for an anti-gay group (Boy Scouts), one for guys who enjoy killing birds (Ducks Unlimited), and one that muddles the separation of church and state (Circleville Bible College). Others are downright banal (Rotary International and the Freemasons). All of which implies that Ohio hasn't been overly selective in the past.

The revenue would also be small potatoes -- at least within the realm of state budgets. Florida, with the most successful Choose Life program, has raised $280,000.

And if Young's measure does pass -- it's currently stuck in committee -- it may open the door to more lenient consideration of other plates, namely the "Choose Edge" initiative, the proceeds from which would go to pay our tab at McCarthy's Ale House. Now that's something we can all get behind.

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