Citing a tradition of separation of church and state in Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have authorized funds from a “Choose Life” license plate to be contributed to a Christian crisis pregnancy center.
The CareNet Pregnancy Center of Rhode Island in Providence offers free pregnancy testing, post-abortion counseling and information about abortion alternatives. The clinic prides itself on being a Christian organization that offers “real choices” to women.
In his veto to lawmakers, Chafee wrote that license plates are meant to register and identify a motor vehicle, and not for the transmission of funds that would violate the separation of church and state.
Chafee argued that the state was founded on that principal when Roger Williams first opened the state as a haven of tolerance.
License plates supporting environmental conservation, breast cancer research, food banks and charitable activities of the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots are still permitted.
Supporters of the law in the General Assembly argued that people would have the option to decline purchasing a “Choose Life” license, adding that the raised funds would reduce abortions within the state.
Barth Bracy, executive director of Rights to Life of Rhode Island, accused Chafee of hiding behind the separation of church and state instead of revealing himself as an abortion extremist. He added that Chafee was “out of step” with other New England Democrats.
The Rights to Life group said it would consider requesting an override, though lawmakers are not expected to vote against the governor’s veto.
An override would require a three-fifths majority vote to pass. Considering the bill barely passed with a majority vote in the House and Senate, an attempt to reestablish it would hardly be worth the effort if the outcome is unpredictable.
A spokesman for Democratic House Speaker, Gordon Fox, said lawmakers would carefully review the vetoed bill before taking further action.