I wrote about the desperate situation for women in Texas for the SF Chronicle 13 years ago when George W. Bush was running for President. Check out the political history of the state under Bush, the ramifications of his policies, and what we’re up against now. Thank you, Wendy Davis for maybe, finally, starting to turn this situation around.
Ask a pro-choice person to explain casting a vote for a pro-life candidate, and the proud response is likely to be: “I don’t support candidates based on just one issue. I care about education, health care, and the economy too.”
Even political savvy supporters of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader aren’t that concerned with the threat to a woman’s right to choose, claiming its one issue among many.
But choice has never been a single issue. Reproductive rights don’t exist in isolation. They have everything to do with women’s economic and political power, women’s access to education and health care, women’s status in society and women’s abilities to take care of themselves and their children.
Birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger once said, “If a woman doesn’t have the right to control her own body, she has no rights.” Choice is a political barometer, indicative of how politicians feel not only about the basic rights of women, but about the role of women in society, abut sex education, health care, welfare, poverty, the economy and the role the government should play in an individual’s life.
A position on choice indicates whether your representative will fight to get your kids vaccinated and to make contraception affordable.
Years ago, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass, said that pro-lifers believe “life begins at conception and ends at birth,” meaning pro-life politicians are adamant about protecting the fetus but don’t care much about protecting the child once its born
His notion was rekindled recently when Prof Jean Schroedel of Claremont College came out with a survey examining the relationship between state abortion laws and spending on children. Her research revealed that the states that most severely limit abortion are the same ones that spend the least on foster care, parents who adopt special needs children, and poor women with dependent children. States with strict abortion laws consistently accorded lower political, economic and social status to women. For example, Louisianna had some of the tougest abortion laws and spent $602 per child. Hawaii had some of the most liberal laws and spent $4,648 per child.
Schroedel also discovered that states with restricted abortion laws consistently accorded lower political, economic and social status to women.
Her findings support the work of Nafis Sadik, executive director of the United Nations World Population Fund. Sadik has been instrumental in turning the debate over how to limit population growth into a campaign for women’s rights.
She is widely credited with bringing attention to the correlation between over population and the status of women. When women are educated, when they achieve economic independence, when they have access to good health care, when they are valued in society for their intellect and their accomplishments, they have fewer babies.
Unfortunately, pro-life politicians still don’t seem concerned with improving the status of women. One classic example is presidential candidate George W. Bush. Look at his record as governor of Texas.
Texas women had a higher than average chance of living in poverty. The state minimum wage, earned by those in the female-dominated service and domestic workers industries was $3.35 per hour, totaling $6,700 annually for full time employment.
The percentage of women and children without health insurance is the second highest in the country.
Texas ranks 42nd in per capita welfare spending.
Bush made it more difficult for women to obtain abortions in times of crisis, but offered no preventative policy initiatives to reduce unintended pregnancy, no expansion of family planning or funding services, no comprehensive sexuality education program and no insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Texas had the second highest rate of teen pregnancy in the nation.
And the Texas system doesn’t promote sexual health. Texas law requires that sex education courses teach abstinence, but it does not require teaching contraception or HIV/ STD prevention.
Compare that to France where mandatory sexuality education begins when students are 13. Parents are prohibited from withdrawing their teenagers from this program. France’s teenage birthrate is approximately 6 times lower than the rate in the US; its teen abortion rate more than 2x lower, and overall AIDS rate, more than 3x lower.
Conservatives like to say, “The government that governs best, governs least.” What happened to this party? Now, they sound so much more like big government believers.
Many Americans wonder how they came to intrude so much into our private lives, legislating personal choices like whom we should sleep with or pray to.
The reason is because if politicians aren’t going to help to provide access to health care, contraception, STD prevention, access to child care and sex education, and economic autonomy there is nowhere to go but blame pregnancies on loose morals and loose women.
If Republicans acknowledge that women have reproductive rights, they’ll have to acknowledge that women have other rights as well. For Texas, that would mean reasonable funding for family planning and welfare, a higher minimum wage, insurance to cover contraceptives, real sex education and access to heath care.
Pro choice isn’t one issue and it isn’t one choice. Pro-choice means women have the choice to graduate from college, the choice to borrow money to start a business, the choice to get a good job with a fair wage, the choice not live in poverty and keep their kids out of poverty. Choice means that women get to be autonomous citizens, just like men do- with the power to determine their own destinies.
Pro-life candidate George Bush understands better than anyone that choice isn’t just one issue. Before heading to the ballot box in November, Americans need to realize pro-life is really only pro-birth.
The Republicans’ concern for mother and child is severed with the cutting of the umbilical cord.
What can you do now, in July, 2013?
Demand public hearings across Texas
On Independence Day in 2013, Texas women are still fighting for their rights!
Politicians in Austin are blocking Texans from speaking out against harmful legislation that would deny Texas women the right to make their own private medical decisions, and essentially end access to safe and legal abortion in the state.
Last night, during a hearing before the State Affairs Committee, the chairman cut off testimony at midnight, denying more than a thousand Texans who had signed up to testify the opportunity to speak out. This isn’t the fair democratic process that we value in Texas.
Texas legislators must stop playing politics with women’s health. Speak up now — urge legislators to schedule public hearings across the state to support the fair democratic process that Texans value.
Please visit Stand With Texas Women to sign your name to this letter going out to decision makers in Texas.