Brink's HoldupFeb. 17, 2010
Monday afternoon was an interesting day on the floor of the House of Delegates. It involved some tactical maneuvering as members debated Delegate Robert Brink’s (D-48, Arlington) Planned Parenthood license plate bill (HB 1108). It's a bill that would create a specialty license plate that reads "Trust Women, Respect Choice." For each plate sold, the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood would receive $15 of the $25 plate fee. But something happened on the way to the bank — or, rather, the abortion center. Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock) offered a floor amendment to change the specialty plate’s recipient from Planned Parenthood to the Virginia Pregnant Women Support Fund. The amendment passed by a healthy margin (56-39) over the objections of Delegate Brink and other pro-abortion lawmakers — and much to their chagrin. Then the bill passed, as amended, 77-22. Let's just call it "Brink's holdup."
The Virginia Pregnant Women Support Fund was created in 2007 to "support women and families who are facing unplanned pregnancy" and is managed by the Virginia Board of Health. A brainchild of Senator Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell) and Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville), the overarching goals of the fund are to provide funding for ultrasound machines, parenting programs, domestic violence/sexual assault education, vocational/academic support, and free home visits by nurses. Sounds worthy. After all, Planned Parenthood is for "choice," right? But Planned Parenthood considers the amendment a devastating blow.
Delegate Brink told the House that Delegate Gilbert’s amendment was unfriendly in nature and urged its defeat. Delegate David Englin (D-45, Alexandria) argued that the change of the fund was unconstitutional, saying that it specifically targeted Planned Parenthood, a misreading of court precedent. Court rulings have said if one viewpoint is allowed on a license plate another viewpoint must also be allowed, but it does not address the funding aspects of the license plates.
Delegate Gilbert responded by saying that the Virginia Pregnant Women Support Fund was a better fit for the language of the plate ("Trust Women, Respect Choice"). Citing Planned Parenthood’s opposition to pro-woman legislation, including informed consent requirements that do exactly that — trust women — the stated that plate funds, if directed to Planned Parenthood, would not go to an organization in conformity with the plate’s message. Tuesday, when the vote on final passage was up, Delegate Brink made a long pronouncement on the floor that sounded as if he would conclude by asking for the bill to be struck. Instead, he urged its passage, as unfavorable as he was to the amendment, in hopes he can get a better deal in the Senate. So, as it turns out, it really is all about the money for this money making machine.
Ironically, in its initial passage, the Virginia Pregnant Women Support Fund was backed by both Planned Parenthood and The Family Foundation due to the Fund’s focus on striving to assist pregnant women. So, the moral of this story is, if you're Planned Parenthood, and you want specialty license plate funding, come clean with your message. Because trusting women is the last thing you really mean.