Dateline – September 20, 2011
The photo (taken in January at an anti-abortion rally on the Texas Capitol steps) presents an image of triumph. Texas Governor Rick Perry is dressed in all black, and waving to the crowd, some type of document in hand. He is flocked by clapping supporters, including the nicely-clad, flag-waving, banner-holding Texas Rally for Life. The accompanying article, however, dampens the mood (at least for some).
During its 2011 session, the Texas legislature and Gov. Perry cut funding for family planning by two-thirds. One Representative, Wayne Christian (R-Nacogdoches), boldly declared the vote a ‘war on birth control’ and abortion. The 71 state-funded family planning clinics are the target, as they do indeed provide birth control. However, these clinics do not perform abortions. This is illegal, thanks also to Perry, et al. Teens and women the clinics educate regarding options for their unwanted pregnancies and yet still choose to abort are referred to private clinics.** First glance might elicit a “victory for life” celebration. Let’s look into the rest of the story, though, before we proclaim anything. (We miss you, Mr. Harvey.)
An important part of life is care of it while one is living. A catch phrase communicates the sentiment — quality of life. We all want good quality of life, especially health-wise. With this funding cut, Perry and his friends are decreasing the quality of life for an estimated 300,000 teens and women. While many patients do receive birth control at these clinics, most come for routine health care such as pap smears, breast cancer screenings, and screenings and treatment for diabetes, thyroid disorders, anemia and high cholesterol. These girls and women come to the family planning clinics for these services because they are amongst the 52% of Texans who have either state funded (Medicaid, CHIP) or no health insurance. Practically speaking, they have nowhere else to go. I am far from being an economist or a politician with answers or suggestions. But, is it not possible to cut spending for some but not all of the services these clinics provide? If I had to choose, I would choose providing quality of life for the uninsured girls and women who use these clinics for wellness and non-obstetric treatments.
There is more, although unrelated to the article and funding cut. Being pro-life (at least in my book) extends to death’s doorstep as well. Ironically, this State which has elected mostly Republican and pro-life candidates in recent times has executed more inmates than any other state in the Union since 1976 — 474 to be exact. In 2011 Texas has executed 10 thus far. Only 7 more executions and the 2010 number will be matched. Virginia, by the way is in distant second place, with 109 executions since 1976, 1 in 2011 and 3 in 2010. Pro-life administrations not sparing lethal injections…how do these two things exist together? I do not portend to know what it feels like to lose a loved one or see her or his life dramatically changed due to a violent crime. I can only empathize with the extreme pain, anger and even humiliation that victims and their families most likely feel for months and even years. I can say, though, that there has never been a time when I haven’t been moved to gut-wrenching tears when I’ve heard a victim’s family member describe their awful experience and then somehow find it within her or himself to say that executing the person responsible isn’t the answer. It doesn’t bring back their loved one, each person has said. The most important thing, offer many grieving family members, is that no one else gets hurt.++
If we are going to be pro-life, if we are going to choose life, if we are going to rally for life, then we need to do these things for the whole of life, not only for the en utero part of it. Biblically speaking, there are many ways under the sun to be pro-life. We can care better for creation and the life that is within its oceans, walks its surfaces and draws nutrients from its soil. We can better love our neighbors as we love ourselves, working and giving more for the greater good of humanity rather than doing our own thing and leaving everyone else to their own accord. We can better care for our sisters and brothers in Christ, whether we know them or not. Community organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs, CASA and the like, for example, are always pining for compassionate volunteers to give our young people the positive role models and mentoring they need, and sometimes crave. We can look in the eyes and greet people we would usually walk past, acknowledging their existence and our shared personhood. We can work for justice in our communities throughout the world by ensuring fair labor practices, equal pay and benefits for all workers and healthy and safe work environments, to name a few things. We can stay by the sides of our dying loved ones and do what we can to help them live their remaining days and die with dignity. I could go on. The point is that life is larger and fuller and encompasses much more than a particular female’s womb.
For what it’s worth, I believe that life begins at conception. When I was pregnant with my husband and my second child at the age of 35 and was offered a screening to determine the likelihood of our baby having Down Syndrome, I sincerely wrestled whether to have it. Even if the screening came back with high probability, we would not have chosen to abort. Furthermore, I believe that abortion is a tragedy that not only ends the life of a child but has the potential to emotionally traumatize the mother, sometimes unknowingly and for an extended period of time. Additionally, I quite agree that it is not the fault of the child when pregnancy is unplanned. I support limits on legal and safe abortion. All of that said, I also strongly feel that focusing our passion for life (only or) primarily on humanity’s gestation and early years is short sighted, if not grievous, neglectful and sinful.
The rest of the story is the rest of life. My prayer is that after the cord is cut and diapers are no longer necessary, we will keep rallying and advocating for a quality and dignified life for all that lives, breathes, eats and grows.
**Information and statistics within paragraphs 2 & 3 from Wade Goodwyn, “Gov. Perry Cut Funds for Women’s Health Care in Texas,” NPR, September 20, 2011, C:\Users\Angie Mabry-Nauta\Desktop\Gov_ Perry Cut Funds For Women’s Health In Texas NPR.mht (accessed 05 October, 2011).
++Statistics in this paragraph courtesy of the Death Penalty Information Center, http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/ (accessed 05 October, 2011).