Magazine article The Human Life Review

Choosing Life

Magazine article The Human Life Review

Choosing Life

Article excerpt

For Kelly and Darin, a married couple in Florida, the cute cartoon figures on the Choose Life license plate presaged an even cuter baby: the real baby girl they adopted with help from the Choose Life program.

"I would see those Choose Life plates around but I never really knew what they were all about," says Kelly, who with her husband did not want their last name used for this article. "Now I'm going to encourage people to get the plates. I see how much we benefited, how much they can help the birth mother, and the child who is adopted."

Kelly and Darin are among the many couples who have followed the license-plate message to choose adoption. They worked through Bethany Christian Services in Winter Park to locate a young pregnant woman who was seeking to place her child for adoption. The young mother was a client of Women's Pregnancy Center in Ocala, a pro-life pregnancy resource center (PRC) that receives funds from the Choose Life license-plate program to provide counseling and support services for women planning to place their newborn for adoption.

"It is so wonderful to be able to be a blessing with these funds," says Tracy Okus, the adoption counselor for Women's Pregnancy Center. "It makes something that is so difficult just a little bit easier sometimes, especially when we are helping a single mom who is struggling."

With funds from the state-approved plates, Okus provides basic necessities for pregnant women who are making adoption plans. These include rent or mortgage, medical expenses, food, clothing, and transportation. According to the legislation under which the Choose Life program operates, 70 percent of the funds must go directly to clients who plan to place their child for adoption, and 30 percent is reserved for adoption-related educational materials and advertising campaigns. The centers receiving funds may not perform or refer for abortion.

Sunshine State Start

Initiated in Florida just over ten years ago, the Choose Life plates have spread to 23 other U.S. states, raising money for adoptive services and spreading a pro-life message. The effort in each state takes a different path, depending on the social and legislative atmosphere. Successful campaigns in one state are used as roadmaps for others, but the way in which the plates are introduced into the legislature and presented to the public depends largely on local conditions.

Opposition in each state varies in intensity, though pro-abortion groups and legislators have always made their voices heard wherever the plates are proposed. The common argument is that the state should not be subsidizing and promoting the message of one side of a political debate over abortion. The commonsense response is that the state has an interest in fostering the improved care and upbringing of children through their placement with qualified adoptive parents.

If Connecticut can promote "Save the Sound" (for the Long Island Sound), states should certainly be free to prefer adoption over abortion.

Still, the fact that the plates do not mention abortion, and promote adoption, which most recognize as a public good, has helped the program pass through state capitols.

Indeed, proponents say the issue is not so much political as social - providing counseling and resources so that pregnant women in difficult circumstances have the freedom to make a true choice, to consider the adoption option.

According to Choose Life, Inc., a nonprofit formed in Florida to advise groups in other states, the automotive plates started as the idea of Randy Harris, who was Marion County commissioner at the time. After noticing the proliferation of specialty plates for different causes in Florida, he envisioned a pro-life, pro-adoption message for his state.

He and two other volunteers, Jim Steel and Russ Amerling, set about fulfilling the state's requirements for introducing a new specialty plate. They raised $30,000 quite easily from a strong pro-life community and gathered more than 14,000 signatures. …

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