‘Choose Life’ license plates alive and well in South Carolina

South Carolinians will soon have a new place to display a pro-life message: their license plates.

Governor Mark Sanford formally signed legislation Sept. 7 that will allow non-profit groups such as area pro-life organizations to petition for their own license plates through the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Motorists will be able to purchase the plates from the DMV once they have been designed. A final design has not yet been approved.

Sanford signed the bill during a special ceremony at the Greenville office of the Piedmont Women’s Center.

“This will be a great way for pro-life advocates to proclaim the Gospel just by having these plates on their cars,” said Kathy Schmugge, Family Life coordinator for the Diocese of Charleston.

Schmugge said the effort to get the license plates has been one of the main goals for pro-life advocates around the state, including members of large groups such as the South Carolina Christians for Life.

So far, 13 states around the country have approved pro-life license tags. Florida has a yellow license plate with two smiling children’s faces and the slogan “Choose Life.” This slogan will also be included on the South Carolina tag.

Pro-life advocates have been trying to get special tags since 2000.

The General Assembly passed a bill that year allowing the plates, but the bill was challenged and struck down in the courts by opponents who said the tags featured one point of view on the issue over another.

Previously, legislation had to be obtained in order to gain permission for specialty tags for non-profit organizations. Now, each group only  has to meet certain criteria and can apply individually to the DMV.

“The statewide supporters of the Choose Life tag were the main supporters of this bill,” said Joel Sawyer, spokesman for the governor’s office. “This means a more streamlined way for non-profits to get specialty tags. Any group who meets the criteria and is seeking a tag can now start the process.”

Support for the new license plate bill also came from many other organizations, including Native American groups, the Fraternal Order of Police, firefighters’ groups and Emergency Medical Services professionals.

Proceeds from sales of the license plate will go to assist crisis pregnancy centers around the state, said Faye Hill, executive committee member of the South Carolina Association of Pregnancy Care Centers.

 These centers work to help women in crisis pregnancy situations with finances, lodging, prenatal care and other concerns, all in the name of helping them successfully carry their babies to term.