Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday unveiled Nebraska's newly created specialized "Choose Life" license plates that feature the design of a woman leading a child by the hand into a grassy field to view a Nebraska sunrise.

The new plates were commissioned by the Legislature earlier this year over the objections of some senators, who argued the plates represent a political statement and place the state in the position of indirectly taking sides in the ongoing argument over abortion rights.

"Life is precious and public officials have a duty to stand up and be a voice for the unborn and most vulnerable," Ricketts said during an unveiling ceremony at Bethlehem House, a pregnancy center in Omaha.

"As governor, I have worked to support initiatives that protect and strengthen the culture of life that Nebraskans embody," Ricketts said.

Twenty-nine states already offer "Choose Life" license plates, the governor said.

The legislation (LB46), introduced by Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse, encountered strong opposition from senators who opposed a state-sanctioned expression of support for "pro-life" advocates in the abortion rights struggle with "pro-choice" advocates, but was easily approved by the Legislature on a final 35-5 vote.

Watermeier and representatives from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Students for Life joined the governor and Lt. Gov. Mike Foley at the event in Omaha on Monday.

"Every community has a responsibility to guard, protect and cherish human life," Watermeier said.  

"Today, Nebraska takes another important step in showing our deep value and respect for human life through the beautiful Choose Life plates you see today," he said.

Sandy Danek, president of Nebraska Right to Life, said "Nebraskans are pro-life and will now have another venue with which to show their support for children and their mothers and to hopefully further inculcate a pro-life message among those who might be considering abortion."

Lincoln graphic designer Shelley Novosad was the artist who designed the license plate. 

Legislative opponents argued the plates represent state-sponsored political speech and subjected the bill to a filibuster before its eventual enactment.  

Information about ordering the specialized plates will be made available by the Department of Motor Vehicles online. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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