Monday, February 21, 2011

The Worst Law Ever

Wisconsin, I feel your pain.  You think your Republican governor is an asshole.  But here in Texas, we've got you beat.

Up there, you have Gov. Scott Walker trying to gut unions by curtailing collective bargaining for public employees, as well as mandating higher individual contributions for pensions and benefits.  He says it's necessary to enable the state to make cuts and balance the budget.  Unions and their supporters have cried foul and are staging protests and de facto strikes.  Incredibly, the whole thing is getting more press than the Packers winning the Super Bowl.

I'm not going to launch a debate about unions here.  As it happens, I'm not a big fan - they're a good idea in principle, but I think there's more than a little hypocrisy in the image of  a well-oiled union machine run by wealthy men with deep political connections representing "the little guy."  Like many large institutions - including the government itself - they've grown too big and bureaucratic to carry out the good intentions with which they were founded.

Still, no one likes to see their rights and freedoms intruded upon, especially by a state government that doesn't seem to have its own affairs in order.  And that's where Texas Governor Rick Perry and his Band of Merry Legislators come in.

Last week, a bill passed in the Texas Senate that would require pregnant women seeking an abortion to have a sonogram performed, and to look at the fetus and listen to its hearbeat, prior to having the procedure done.  If a woman refuses to look, her doctor has to describe it to her.  This bill is expected to pass in the House as well, and Gov. Perry has said he will fast-track it into law.

Again, I'm not going to discuss a pro-choice or pro-life agenda here.  This post is about bashing a couple of Republican governors and their stupid ideas, which is a lot more fun.  But my core belief on the subject is this:  terminating a pregnancy is a gravely serious matter, and it's none of the government's damn business.

Needless to say, the Texas Legislature doesn't share my views.  This isn't its first foray into the womb, either.  Women in Texas already have to jump through hoops to control what's happening in their own bodies. 

Women can't simply make an appointment and have an abortion; when they arrive at the doctor's office, they are given a "right to know" pamphlet.  It includes pictures of fetuses at various stages of development (the same kinds of pictures the Legislature has decided high-school students shouldn't see because they don't fit the "abstinence only" curriculum).  It also has supportive, helpful information, including the fact that carrying a pregnancy to term can cause "great surges of joy and happiness," while abortion can lead to "depression, grief, anxiety,...flashbacks, and substance abuse." Oh, and breast cancer.  (The legally mandated pamphlet can be found here.) 

After getting this information, a woman than has to go home and "think about it" for 24 hours before actually returning for an abortion.  Under the pending law, she'll also have to watch and listen to the fetus.  Then, and only then, can she make an "informed decision" about the procedure.

I'm all for informed decisions, especially when the decision involves a tiny human life.  My church, my doctor, my family and friends, the man who helped create the unborn child, and yes, even taxpayer-funded social agencies - all of these would be critical to help me wrestle with the moral and practical issues involved, if I chose to turn to them.  Failing to do so might be stupid, ignorant, weak, or sinful on my part.  But it shouldn't be illegal.

By the way, the bill's sponor, Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), maintains that he is empowering women by giving them information they're entitled to, and says that if a woman really doesn't want to hear her doctor's description of the fetus, she can just "try to tune it out." 

The Texas Legislature is simultaneously considering signifcant cuts to funding for children's health care, early education, and protective services.  The state ranks near the bottom in national SAT scores and dead last in high school graduation rates. 

Maybe there should be a union for mothers.  Except that Texas is a right-to-work state.

Hey, Wisconsin.  Want to trade places?  Our governor's got great hair, and winter is over down here.  We'll even throw in the Dallas Cowboys and...Hello?  Hello? 

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