Dear Rick Perry: Caring for children doesn’t stop at birth

Updated
Governor Rick Perry pauses as he speaks during media conference at The Source for Women, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, in Houston.
Governor Rick Perry pauses as he speaks during media conference at The Source for Women, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, in Houston.
AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip

Ed. note: Due to breaking news, host Melissa Harris-Perry was unable to deliver her weekly open letter in conjunction with this past weekend’s discussion about the Violence Against Women Act. While this does not have the added power of her delivery, Melissa and I wanted to share with you what she planned to say. Texas Governor Rick Perry, heads up. – JKS

Forget what you’ve heard about a reformed Republican party that actually respects women and their ability to make their own choices for their lives. Because this week, Texas Governor Rick Perry left no question about whether Republicans are ready to call a cease fire in the war on women.  Perry announced his plans to support new anti-choice laws during an upcoming legislative session.  And in doing so, he drew a line deeply in the sand and planted his flag in support of not just weakening—but completely obliterating women’s reproductive rights. So this week, I’m addressing my open letter…

Dear Governor Rick Perry,

It’s me, Melissa. I suppose you get some credit for not even trying to pretend you believe women are capable of making decisions about their reproductive health.

You made it crystal clear when you stated your ultimate goal to quote, “Make abortion at any stage a thing of the past.” Thankfully, there is this thing from the past called Roe v. Wade that stops you from doing that. So instead, you’re using your power as Texas governor to steadily chip away at the reproductive rights of women any way you can.

The women of Texas already have you to thank for vaginal probes, being forced to listen to a fetus’s heartbeat and to a doctor describing the fetus - whether they want to or not—and a 24-hour wait after visiting a doctor, all just to receive an elective medical procedure. But left at your mercy, those women would be the lucky ones. Because you don’t believe women who became pregnant after rape or incest should be allowed to have an abortion at all. And now we have your plan to back a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.

I’m sure you’re feeling quite proud of yourself for your accomplishments. No really, slow-clap for you, Governor Perry.

When the law passes Texas’s Republican dominated legislature, you’ll have succeeded in stopping abortions in Texas after 20 weeks—all 1.3% of them. Because of course, almost all abortions—nearly 92% of them—are performed at less than 13 weeks. And only 23% of abortion providers even offer abortions after 20 weeks.

I’m sure you also feel like you’ve earned a pat on the back for the law’s exception in cases where the health of the mother is in jeopardy.  So here’s another round of slow claps for adding a completely redundant exception to your law. Because if a woman is seeking an abortion after 20 weeks, it’s more than likely *because* her health or life is threatened by the pregnancy.  Or because she discovered a previously undiagnosed fetal abnormality.

And your justification that the law would prevent fetal pain? The research is inconclusive, at best. I think we can both agree that’s more of a political straw-man than actual science. So no, really, congratulations on backing a totally useless and unnecessary piece of legislation.

Let’s just be completely honest here.

This is really all about trying to force a showdown over Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court, right?  Why not just come out and say that instead of trying to convince us it’s all because the suffering of an unborn fetus—as you say—the best definition of “compelling state interest.” Because logically that would also mean you are equally compelled by the living, breathing people who once started out as fetuses too.

And if you cared—if you really cared? You would use your power as governor to make choices the alleviate their pain and suffering.  You know what choice I’m talking about, don’t you Rick? Here’s a hint:  it has to do with the Texas having the highest uninsured rate of any state. You know, the 25% of your state’s population that doesn’t have health insurance.

What is more compelling than 1.4 million people in your state living in fear of getting sick and having no way to pay for their healthcare? What is more compelling than the crisis faced by Texas safety net hospitals of having to cut back or services and close down because of your refusal of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion?

You know, meaningful legislation that could actually make a difference in the lives of the people of Texas. No, you’re more interested in laws whose only use is to block women’s rights and make a difference in the life of one person in Texas—yourself. It’s no secret your misogynist policies are re-election fodder for the white Republican men who will turn out to vote for you in the 2014 primary.

But good luck with that in 2016 when you’re trying again to run for president. Because abortion won’t be what becomes a thing of the past during the presidential election. It’ll be you.

Sincerely,

Melissa


See our discussion about the Violence Against Women Act, and its effect on American Indian women, below. We’ll have more on this on MHPshow.com later this week.

Dear Rick Perry: Caring for children doesn't stop at birth

Updated