Protest art can be found in unexpected places, but it could soon be on license plates with the passage of one California state senator’s bill.
SB 309, a bill authored by state senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, would permit the Department of Motor Vehicles to sell a special license plate that showcases pro-choice artwork from a California artist. Proceeds from the plates would fund family planning services through the Family Planning, Access, Care and Treatment (FPACT) program.
The special license plate would feature the phrase “California Trusts Women” and artwork from one of three California artists, including Berkeley-based art teacher and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl, best known for her work in the book series Rad Women.
“The artists all care passionately about this cause and were excited to be part of another groundbreaking, visible part of the resistance,” said Rebecca Griffin, director of NARAL Pro-Choice California. “Of course a lot of people know Miriam Klein Stahl from her great illustrations for the Rad Women books, which encapsulate the leadership, community and solidarity we want to evoke with the license plates.”
Stahl, a longtime teacher at Berkeley High School and co-founder of its Arts & Humanities Academy, was one of the artists recommended to NARAL Pro-Choice California, which is working in coordination with the state to create and distribute these license plates.
“Artists, performers, writers and activists are voicing their desire for a world that we could and should have that is feminist, equitable and loving,” said Stahl. “The current political climate is none of those things.”
Her design, a paper-cut illustration of two protesting women set against a yellow backdrop, falls in line with the arresting style she put forth in her illustrations for Rad Women Worldwide and Rad American Women A-Z.
California would be the second state, following Virginia, to offer pro-choice license plates. But 29 states, including Virginia, offer pro-life equivalents — 15 of which use the revenue generated to fund anti-choice groups.
“California has a long history of leadership on reproductive rights,” said Sen. Jackson in a press release. “This license plate represents one way that we can demonstrate that we will stay true to our values and the right of every woman to safe, affordable and quality reproductive health care.”
The bill has already passed the Senate, and is currently in the State Assembly awaiting committee approval. Upon its enactment and the winning design’s approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, 7,500 pre-orders must be collected within 12 months until the special license plates are produced.
Until then, voting will remain open for the winning license plate art through August, Griffin said.