Working on and off for Texas Right to Life since 2010, both as a student in their fellowship program and as a lobbyist, I find this “controversy” surrounding Texas Right to Life’s scorecards BEYOND ridiculous. Just today, Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock had a Tribune article lambasting TRTL, claiming he “was given a subpar score.” He scored a 96%!! From reading the scorecard, the lost points were from a failure to co-author any versions of the 20-week pain bill or the 4-part Omnibus bill (HB 2). Scores as high as 143 were received by legislators because of bonus points- points for co-authoring other bills on TRTL’s widely-circulated legislative agenda, something the Chairman did not do.
What makes a good political advocacy group? One that stands by its word, one that can be trusted by its members, elected officials, and legislative staffers alike to do what they proclaim to be their goals. An effective and honest political advocacy group strives to serve its membership, to be the collective voice of their members at the Capitol. The current “criticism” from the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) against Texas Right to Life (TRTL) highlights that TRTL is indeed one of these groups.
Texas Right to Life’s mission is to “protect life from fertilization until natural death.” Protecting the unborn and protecting the ill, disabled, and elderly from death imposed on them by hospital boards, against their families’ wishes, and against a patient’s advance directives. Every candidate seeking an endorsement from TRTL must undergo an extensive screening process. Only those candidates who demonstrate and commit to BOTH of these principles earn an endorsement, and only endorsed candidates receive resources from TRTL to help win their campaign.
The New York Times recently published an article written by Texas Tribune writer, Becca Aaronson, regarding the fight last legislative session about hospital treatment in Texas. The article highlights the difference stances taken by Texas Right to Life and the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB). Repeatedly, the TCCB has attacked TRTL who negatively scored legislators that supported an expansion of involuntary medical care termination. TCCB’s argument comes from the fact that some of these negatively scored legislators helped pass HB 2, (that filibuster bill, remember?). According to TCCB, as long as an elected official does half of what they promised, you should look the other way.
Scoring actions on SB 303 and HB 1444 did not take legislators by surprise; I cannot even begin to tell you how many weeks, hours, and blisters from high heels were spent on educating legislators, their staff, and their individual districts on TRTL’s problems with the bills, coupled with warnings that those actions would be negatively reflected come scorecard time. My personal opinion – I think legislators thought TRTL was bluffing, that TRTL would succumb to pressure from politicians to ignore the unfathomable blunder come campaign time. But this situation is just another demonstration that you can believe what TRTL says, whether you like it or not.
Yes, HB 2 was a great stride for women and babies of Texas. Yes, HB 2 will probably be a great stride for our nation, and the pro-life community is thankful for the work done (going to ignore the whole “had to call a special session” angle for now).
But advocacy groups aren’t supposed to bend to fit the people in office. That would be called a campaign. And they certainly don’t exist to keep other advocacy groups happy. If you are a voter who just wants to see whether your elected official voted to protect the unborn, Texas Right to Life’s scorecards are broken down in a way that you can easily see the distinction. That’s what scorecards are for – to help inform voters on candidates’ stances, not to all hold hands and sing kumbaya when you break a campaign promise.
If Texas Right to Life didn’t stand by their decision to include SB 303/HB 1444 votes and authorship in scorecards, they would have been letting down their membership, letting down the views of the people they represent, like my family. That Texas Right to Life refused to play politics, I’m grateful.