Instead of a romp through various topics of interest, Fridays will sometimes be devoted to a single subject, which is today’s case. Our attempt will always be to provide a context and perspective we don’t see elsewhere, and that’s why this piece is about abortion and the Texas men trying to control women.
As more abortion clinics close in the state of Texas, a retrospective look at the politics that led to this form of oppression points mostly at men. In fact, the five Republican candidates for the most powerful statewide offices in Texas, all of whom are dedicated to increasing abortion restrictions, are male. Glenn Hegar, a state senator who leads going into a runoff for the Texas comptroller nomination, was the author of the law that is closing clinics and putting the lives of countless women at risk because the new regulations create an inability for service providers to deal safely with problem pregnancies.
Hegar’s bill was co-sponsored in the house, however, by a woman, St. Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, but her intellectual contributions have to be considered minimal. She famously explained on the house floor that hospitals use rape kits to “clean out” victims so they do not get pregnant. Laubenberg has not, in any case, been committed to women’s health in Texas, the insidious guise under which abortion laws are politically marketed. She had previously written an amendment to an appropriations bill that restricted low-income women from getting prenatal care during the first three months of pregnancy if they were on the federally subsidized low-income Children’s Health Insurance Program. When she was confronted about the measure, Laubenberg said, “But they aren’t born yet.”
Her demonstrable obliviousness made her a perfect associate for Hegar’s plan.
Hegar’s first run at statewide office is for comptroller, a position that has nothing to do with abortion rights. Regardless, his campaign, which has taken him to the brink of winning the GOP nomination without a runoff, concentrated on conservative issues like abortion restrictions and gun rights as qualifications to manage tax dollars. Hegar’s tenure in the state senate, meanwhile, has exhibited what almost amounts to obsession with abortion. He is co-author of the law requiring sonograms, and the pre-born pain bill, which claims, without scientific evidence, that fetuses at early gestation feel pain during abortion. He also worked with anti-choice organizations to require doctors to have admitting privileges at surgical centers before being allowed to perform abortions, and he authored the ban on abortions after 20 weeks.
Although Gov. Rick Perry’s name is on the law, Hegar’s anti-abortion zeal is what led to the restrictions that most recently prompted the closing of the Women’s Whole Health clinics in the Rio Grande Valley and Beaumont, and will eventually leave the state with about a half dozen facilities that are legal. Hegar has been running for the financial office of comptroller, oddly, on a platform of gun rights and abortion restrictions, and admitted during the videotaping of a Tea Party speech that he was not really properly experienced for the job he was seeking.
“The question that he’d asked, he said, ‘So serving in the legislature qualifies you to be the next Texas Comptroller,’ and if it wasn’t for the camera, I would have laughed because I do not think serving in the legislature in any shape, form, or fashion qualifies a person in and of itself to be comptroller.”
Nor does passing laws to end abortion rights.
Hegar may be less worrisome to Texas women if he gets elected comptroller but the GOP candidate leading the runoff for Lt. Governor is considerably more problematic. Dan Patrick, a former TV sportscaster who was most famous for wearing blue foam hats on the air before he ran for public office, is determined to eliminate any type of abortion in Texas. A state senator who now appears poised to defeat the incumbent Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Patrick will not rest until he has figured out a way to close every abortion clinic in Texas and probably turn them into churches to worship his god. Unfortunately, if elected, he will have the greatest constitutional authority offered by Texas government.
But Patrick already wants more power.
The Texas senate has operated for decades using a two-thirds rule, which requires that 21 members of the 31-seat body agree before any issue can be brought to the floor for debate. The measure has long prevented public acrimony over controversial laws and has enabled the minority Democrats to have a modicum of influence. Patrick has described the two-thirds rule as a tool for enabling the “tyranny of the minority,” which is, obviously, anyone who opposes his political perspective. If Patrick achieves a change in the tradition of a two-thirds vote, there is little doubt Texans will see an ensuing tsunami of legislation to prevent abortion. The current Lt. Governor David Dewhurst has indicated he is also going to “lead the charge to get rid of that rule,” and his political platform on abortion is as rigorously anti-woman as Patrick’s. He has repeatedly crowed about how proud he is to have defunded Planned Parenthood in Texas.
The governor, who would sign these bills, if St. Sen. Wendy Davis does not win election in the fall, is Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general. Abbott’s position on abortion is as extreme as Gov. Rick Perry’s and does not allow for exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother. He argues for something he refers to as a “whole life process,” which supports the mother and the child through the difficult pregnancy. Unfortunately, he has been supportive of the budget cuts and stringent policies in Texas that make it difficult for women to get health care or any other kind of family planning or assistance services, and any woman with financial issues and a problem pregnancy is going to end up with almost no “life process” support in Texas.
The reasons are a consequence of Abbott and Perry’s politics. Texas ranks 45th out of all states for the percentage of women getting prenatal health care and 44th for the percentage of citizens receiving Medicaid. Abbott, Perry, Patrick, and Dewhurst have vigorously opposed expanding the coverage of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which would have provided health insurance for up to 1.7 million Texans, an almost sinful political posture in a state that ranks 2nd in the number of teenaged girls having babies.
While Abbott, Perry, Dewhurst, Patrick, and Hegar claim to care about the unborn and protecting life, the policies they have promulgated evidence no such sensitivities. An annual study by a Texas House caucus, called Texas on the Brink, reports nine percent of all Texas children live in extreme poverty where the household income is below 50 percent of the national poverty level. The state has the second highest percentage of a population that goes hungry on a daily basis. A million children in the Texas are without health insurance of any kind. A woman forced into having a child without the resources to support it would discover that the Maximum Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in Texas for a family of three is a one time cash payment of $201.79.
Protect the unborn. Turn your backs on the born.
Abbott, Perry, Patrick, Dewhurst, and Hegar claim to sanctify the unborn but they are not very interested in helping the child outside of the womb, nor have they created a state economy or culture that provides opportunities to overcome disadvantages inherited at birth, which often come with teenaged or problem pregnancies. And yet they keep acquiring more political power from the electorate and advancing increasingly extremist policies. These men of wealth, who live almost without risk, deserve blame for the physical harm many women are enduring under their abortion regulations.
But the fault, and the guilt, for this mess belongs to Texas voters.