Indiana’s decision to offer a “Choose Life” license plate could generate millions of dollars for anti-abortion centers seeking to spread their message. The plate, commissioned by the Indiana Association of Pregnancy Centers, reflects a growing trend toward drivers who want to profess their beliefs and interests — and organizations who hope to capitalize on those statements. Indiana currently offers 55 plates and plans to release 10 more in 2007 — including the “Choose Life” plate and another that says “In God We Trust.”

“It’s non-confrontational,” [Dan Steiner, president of the Indiana Association of Pregnancy Centers] said. “It’s positive.”

What part of the abortion debate in this country is non-confrontational? A little over a decade ago, I participated in an anti-abortion demonstration. It was a silent protest: all we did was line the streets of downtown Indianapolis, holding signs (none of the over-the-top pictures of fetuses kind), and not saying a word. I, too, thought that was a non-confrontational approach. I also remember how many times I was spit upon. However, I’m not going to turn this into a dissection of what I believe about abortion (which is what this debate will inevitably devolve into).

That’s a blog for another day.

As I thought about how to tackle this assignment from Intake’s Blog Squad, I began thinking through how my major concerns when it came to protest, taking sides, and raising awareness. Especially when it come to the topic of abortion, I remembered this plea from one of my message board moderators: While everyone’s busy worrying about the baby, there’s a broken, scared, hurting girl who just had her entire future thrown completely off track (no, I don’t mean her superficial plans, I mean her FUTURE. Has anyone else noticed that having kids changes your ENTIRE LIFE?) and is being greeted much more by flack and judgment than counsel and guidance. Everyone’s concerned about the future of that baby… what about the life of that girl? I’m not saying forsake one (baby) for the other (mom)… I’m saying, worry about them BOTH.

But, you know, that’s a blog for another day.

So, what do I think about the idea of the government offering plates that convey a controversial and political message such as this? Do I have any ethical or philosophical problems with it? Would I pay the extra $15 for one?

Would I buy one? I’m not a bumper sticker person. I’m not a Jesus fish person. I’m not a license plate person. If I want to help, I help a person. As for the messaged, the temptation is to be quick to say “yay! Our side must be winning” if you see this as a matter of sides and if you’re into demonizing your opponents. However, since I’m in the mood to quote my mod, [I don’t think that anyone has the right to persecute anyone else because of what they do, what they choose, or the mistakes that they make (unless they’re illegal, in which case the state has a right to procure discipline). Do I think that abortion should be illegal? That’s not the issue, is it? Abortion is NOT illegal, and thus, I don’t have the right to injure, slander, or abuse anyone who supports it, has done it, or is seeking it. Will I try to convince them to go another way? Heck yes. But will I beat them to a bloody pulp if they don’t? Will I behave hatefully? Will I be hurtful? No. Not only does my country, my government not allow for that, but my FAITH does not.]

To me, it comes down to freedom of speech and money is a form of speech. How we choose to spend our money says a lot about who we are and what we believe. We see it in political speech and thus the constant cries for campaign finance reform. We see it in churches when it comes to tithes. As such, freedom means that everyone gets a voice, not just the people we agree with. So before you celebrate too much, know that “the other side” gets to speak also. Raising awareness, via by bumper sticker or by license plate, more points to the self-righteousness of the car owner, no matter the message. But it is expressing their thoughts and what they believe in – which they have the right to do.

Either we believe in free speech or we don’t. No one is forced to buy the license plate. It’s no different that having a bumper sticker, a very expensive bumper sticker, but a bumper sticker nonetheless.

Everyone who wants to go through the bureaucracy of getting their own plate should get a shot/voice. However, it’s important to remember that while you have a right to say what you want, you don’t have a right to be heard.