| During Monday's debate between the four Republican candidates for Lieutenant governor, a specific question about abortion access was posed to the men. Would they support exceptions to abortion restrictions in the case of rape and incest, and did they believe that we should support low-income women who are pregnant and facing the very costly process of giving birth and raising a child? The candidates' answers were rather predictably identical in their rush to the extremist right - and in a year where access to reproductive justice is front and center in voters' minds, the sheer inability of any of these men to fathom nuance in this black and white conversation cannot be emphasized enough.
Reflecting an attitude first seen on the House floor when supporters of the omnibus abortion bill stared down Representative Senfronia Thompson and an army of Democrats armed with coat hangers and demanding an exception for cases of rape and incest, the candidates refused to even consider these exceptions as options en masse. For these men, abortion should never be used for "birth control." They do, however, believe that if the life of the mother is "truly" at risk (thank Dan Patrick for that clarification), then the situation merits a "conversation," according to Todd Staples. Thank goodness for that.
More on the outrageously conservative positions of the four Republican candidates for statewide office below the jump.
|Todd Staples was the first to respond, and he led with the most important and consistent point: "Abortion should never be used as a form of birth control." He continued, "We need as a society to promote a culture of life." Though he believes that "you can have a conversation" if the life of the mother is endangered by her pregnancy, he quickly moved on to the importance of adoption as an option to unplanned pregnancy. Staples was the only candidate to address the issue of funding to support low-income pregnant women, saying, "We do also need to help mothers in that situation. We certainly need to make sure they have access to medical care for themselves and the child so they can both have an opportunity for a successful life." It is unclear whether he has considered Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act or increased funding for social programs to achieve these goals, but it is safe to assume he would be against the former at best.
David Dewhurst used the moment as an opportunity to reinforce his credibility as a pro-life candidate. "I'm strongly pro-life and endorsed by the four largest pro life organizations, and I appreciate their support," Dewhurst said. "I've worked over the years in order to protect women's health and to protect the preborn." After emphasizing his interest in protecting the life of the mother as a part of a culture of life, Dewhurst quickly restated his opposition to abortion - just in case the viewer may have misinterpreted his compassion for pro-choice leanings. "Like Todd (Staples) has just mentioned, I have a problem with abortion being used as a birth control method," Dewhurst concluded.
For Jerry Patterson, "Its pretty simple... My answer is either it is life or its not." Patterson also took exception to differentiating between the circumstances of conception when talking about access to abortion:
To say that we have a child, an unborn child, that is the result of a rape and somehow that's less life-like or inferior to the life that was through a natural non catastrophic event like that doesn't make any sense. Its either life or its not life, so I do not support exceptions for rape or incest. You must always err on the side of life, and if you do that you will always be true to your principles. But rape and incest are not legitimate exceptions in my opinion.
Not to be outdone, Patrick began his answer by reminding viewers that, "We are made in the image of God." This informs all of his decisions, because "I'm a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third, and you don't check those values and beliefs at the door no matter the circumstance," even if that circumstance is someone else's pregnancy resulting from the horrors of rape or incest. Though one could make an exception if the life of the mother were "truly in danger," Patrick assured those watching that this is a "rare" occurrance. He continued:
From everything I've studied and everything I've read, in those rare circumstances where the life of the mother is on the line, most mothers say, "Let my baby live."
When pressed again for comment on whether one should provide support for low-income pregnant women, Patterson immediately pointed to fixing our adoption process so "mothers can give up their children." Yes, for Patterson, the first option that comes to mind to help low-income women who are pregnant and need support is to provide an easier system for them to give their children up for adoption.
Patrick and Staples pointed to the importance of the private sector in providing support to low-income women. Patrick said he would "go to the private sector" to raise the money to help these women choose to carry their pregnancies to term and raise their children. Staples pointed out that government isn't always the answer, and that churches are already doing great things to support low income mothers and pregnant women.
Dewhurst gave the only substantive answer in terms of policies that can actually help pregnant or post-partum women. He pointed to the importance of home visits by nurses for low-income women both when they are pregnant and after they give birth, and referred to legislation he supported that put just such a program in place.
The difference between this roster of male candidates with strict views on who should have access to abortion services and Leticia Van de Putte is stark, and the Texas Democratic Party was quick to point out this clear difference. "The Republican war on women continues on in full gear. The Texan Republican agenda is so extreme that there are no exceptions, no understanding," said Texas Democratic Party Regional Press Secretary Lisa Paul. "Democrats like Senator Van de Putte have fought hard against this extremism, but tonight Republicans made it clear that revoking the rights of Texas women continues to be their top priority."
For these men who hope to hold one of the most powerful positions in our state, the rights of the "preborn" far outweigh the rights of "mothers-to-be."