Civil Liberties Group Says House and Senate Conferees Must Restore Planned Parenthood as Recipient of Revenues

Richmond, VA – The ACLU of Virginia is urging House and Senate conferees to restore Planned Parenthood as the recipient of revenues to be generated from the sale of a pro-choice specialty license plate under consideration by the General Assembly.
The plate, displaying the phrase Trust Women, Respect Choice, counters a law passed in 2009 authorizing a Choose Life license plate.  Under recent court decisions holding that specialty license plates are a public forum in which viewpoint discrimination is prohibited, the General Assembly is required to pass a pro-choice plate once an anti-choice plate has been enacted.
Although the Trust Women plate bill has passed both the House and Senate, the recipient of revenues generated by the sale of the plate has become a sticking point.  Planned Parenthood, as required by Virginia law, gathered 350 pre-paid applications for the plate and enlisted legislators to introduce the Trust Women bill in the House and Senate, with revenues to be directed to Planned Parenthood.  But the House amended the bill to instead direct funds to the Virginia Pregnant Women Support Fund. The conferees must now decide which organization will receive the revenues from the plate and then refer the agreed-upon bill to the House and Senate for consideration.
The ACLU has informed conferees that the General Assembly must support a bill directing funds to Planned Parenthood or face a lawsuit.
“Removing Planned Parenthood as the revenue recipient has three possible consequences, all of which violate the right of free speech,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis.  “It could cause the bill to fail altogether.  The bill could pass, but the license plate will not be produced because there are no pre-paid applications for the non-Planned Parenthood bill.  The bill could pass, but the First Amendment rights of individuals who purchased the plate expecting their money to go to Planned Parenthood will be violated.”
“This kind of mess is precisely why we have been telling the General Assembly for years to get out of the business of voting on specialty license plates and instead turn the whole process over to DMV,” added Willis.
The ACLU memo sent to House and Senate conferees can be found online at: http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/20100310ProChoicePlateMemotoConferees.pdf

Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, (804) 644-8022

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