Hey Trib, it’s really “Texas Right to Life’s REFUSAL to play politics…”

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.

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I Wish Ted Seago Represented Me

You can tell a lot about a man by the qualities of his children. Having worked with two of Ted Seago’s children, one as my boss and one who routinely responded to me as “yes ma’am,” and knowing his wife and daughter-in-love, Ted Seago’s family is a walking example of the impact a principled, hard-working, Christ-serving man can have on a group of people.  I hope the voters of House District 16 will allow Ted the opportunity to have that kind of an impact on the rest of our lawmakers in Austin come March.

For two legislative sessions, I watched Ted and Johnnie Seago volunteer countless days and nights urging lawmakers to stand on the principles they campaigned on.  I watched the Seagos invest in young people by bringing young ladies from their church to witness history being made at the Capitol.   I watched the Seagos instill the importance of being involved in your local government to all around them.

As a resident of Liberty County, I won’t get the opportunity to vote for Dr. Seago.  However, as Ted and Johnnie routinely do all they can to make their part of Texas a little better, I pray the voters of Montgomery County, and the rest of HD 16, will help the Seagos make an even bigger impact.

Send Ted to Austin, Montgomery County. You’ll be glad you did. 🙂

 

 

 

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Santa’s Wonderland — Showing Christ

The promise of fabulous lights, a hayride, and a quaint Texas “village” are what drew my sister and I to visit Santa’s Wonderland in College Station this past weekend.  Not sure if Justus was just as drawn to the festivities, or if he just acquiesced to accompanying us, but the three of us nonetheless trotted off on this adventure!

Everything was just too cute.  There was a wine tasting room that I thought, “Hannah and I would have so much fun here!”  Of course, I wanted to buy just about every Christmas decoration the place contained.  At Katherine’s insistence, we waited for an hour, while our toes were about to freeze off, to watch the Aggie Wranglers perform.  But the awesomeness (made-up word, I know) of the evening came during the hayride.

Twenty five people loaded into a trailer packed with hay. Along the trail, Santa’s Wonderland had every Christmas scene imaginable depicted through gorgeous lights.  Elves, country families, snowmen, Rudolph, Santa.  Everything you could imagine.  Sweet Christmas music accompanied us the entire way. After a little while, I thought, “I bet they don’t have a nativity scene here. Probably too commercial for that.” Later, I found out that Justus had been thinking the same thing.

And then the truck pulling us slowed down.  The second to last scene was a nativity scene, complete with candles burning in windows at the top of the stable to depict the inn.  A moving Vince Gill Christmas song began to play.  Cameras came out and pictures snapped. I thought to myself, “Way to go, Santa’s Wonderland.”

And then we came to the last scene.  This time, the truck stopped. This last scene was the three crosses on Mount Calvary, with the middle cross adorned in purple. Next to the crosses stood Jesus’s tomb with the stone rolled away.  Everyone fell silent.  Vince Gill’s song of adoration was the only sound. Twenty-five strangers shared a moment of being reminded why some of us celebrate Christmas.  We celebrate a birth because it leads to the cross. And the cross to life.

I was so encouraged to see that in its commercial venture, the people behind Santa’s Wonderland didn’t shy away from sharing with its customers their reason for celebrating this particular season.  In a culture where commercial activities are pressured – in the mask of potential profits – to remove all semblance of religion, Santa’s Wonderland didn’t succumb.  Santa’s Wonderland chose to share the Gospel with those who choose to visit.  Merry Christmas.

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What do Pro-Life People Actually “Do?”

…and we’re back.  A certain slate of classes at our beloved Baylor Law, commonly referred to as Practice Court, has quite literally eaten up my existence these past 10-12 weeks.  Finals are over, sleep is more, and I once again have the chance to write!

In response to a previous post about scholarships for pregnant and parenting students, an educated, “abortion-access-is-a-right” acquaintance of mine privately expressed her approval of such scholarships. The acquaintance commented, “Now, THAT’S more of what we need.” While confident the comment was a good-faith attempt at building discourse, her comment nonetheless disappointed me.  Why? Because it made me realize she really has no idea what the Texas pro-life community is all about.  

Pro-life people are DAILY helping women and families across the country overcome the practical implications surrounding an unplanned pregnancy.  They just help quietly.

There’s a constant tug of war, both on individual and aggregate levels, between humility and the desire to combat the myths of what a normal “pro-life” person actually does.  A good segment of the pro-life community engages in helping families in need as a reflection of Christ’s love. We help others because that is how we are called to live out our faith, and we are instructed to be humble while doing it. Undoubtedly, this humility aspect impacts the level of information generated on the multitude of loving works precipitated by pro-life Americans.

And of course, a major factor in lack of coverage is that mainstream media isn’t going to actually report anything awesome coming from a group identified as “pro-life.”

But here, in my little corner of the world, I’M going to start talking all about the amazing things pro-lifers whom I know are doing within their own communities. I know I’ve got a few Facebook friends and Twitter followers who disagree with me, so maybe this ongoing project will bear some fruit 😉

Such remarkable outpourings of pure love are directly attributable to people who diligently give to strangers.  The pro-life lawyers and doctors who give financially to scholarships at A&M and SFA.  The retired teachers who sacrifice to give to young families.  The businesses run by pro-life people who donate plates and napkins, cokes and bread for scholarship fundraisers.  It’s the college students who give of their time to organize 5ks and BBQ dinners to raise money. The college students who hold community baby showers outside Walmart. The ladies who pick up a package of diapers every time they go to the grocery store, so that new mom who calls the local pregnancy resource center can get the supplies she needs.  The many, many (x1000) families who adopt.  The many families who open their homes to a pregnant teenager in their community.  I once met an elderly woman in East Texas who still crocheted tons of blankets each year just to give to expecting moms.

That’s love, folks.  

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Lufkin PP Not Telling Women Who Local TWHP Providers Are?

Apparently, the Lufkin Planned Parenthood was turning women away without telling these women that other clinics/doctors in the area participate in the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP).  The TWHP provides family planning services and annual exams at no cost to eligible low-income Texas women.  The state essentially reimburses the clinics/physicians for such visits. One of the highlights of the 82nd Legislative Session (2011) was when lawmakers, pro-life lobbyists, General Abbott, and Governor Perry successfully crafted the Texas version of the Women’s Health Program, eliminating abortion providers from participating.  The federal Women’s Health Program refused to let Texas prohibit tax dollars from subsidizing the work of such abortion clinics, so Texas did what Texas always does – we decided we could do it ourselves.

As many of you know, Planned Parenthood recently announced the closing of their Lufkin, Bryan, and Huntsville locations. Planned Parenthood’s press releases cited the elimination of their participation in the TWHP and cuts to their state funding from 2011 as reasons for the shutdown of the Lufkin and Bryan clinics.  Soon after the announcements, I was on the phone with pro-life activists from the Lufkin/Nacogdoches areas.  An employee of one of the local pregnancy resource centers proceeded to tell me the story of a particular client that recently called their center.

The young woman, a TWHP participant, went into the Lufkin Planned Parenthood for her birth control pills (a service covered under the TWHP).  The “clinic” informed this young woman that they no longer accepted TWHP (which is accurate) and the pills would cost her $200.  Not being able to afford the $200, Planned Parenthood simply dismissed this woman. Planned Parenthood did not even tell her what other doctors/clinics in the area DO take TWHP patients. To find out what her options are under the new TWHP rules, the young woman calls the pregnancy resource center.  The center’s staff provided the young woman with a list of area doctors who do participate in TWHP and who are accepting new patients.  So Jessica Farrar, who was there to give accurate information to this young woman?  Not your beloved Planned Parenthood, but one of those sweet ladies running pregnancy resource centers whom you love to loathe at every abortion hearing.

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Highlights from Texas’ #HB2 Bill Signing

Even with law school finals on the horizon, when your boss texts and invites you to come to the signing of one of the most historic pro-LIFE pieces of legislation in the nation, you say yes. I knew the day would be the celebratory culmination of many legislative sessions, two of which I have been privileged to be a part of.  The day started with a breakfast for about fifty hosted in Governor Perry’s Appointment office, and then our group assembled into the Capitol auditorium for the bill signing.  Emily Horne and I sat in front of some reporters and got to chat with them while waiting for the ceremony to begin. Cheers were loud when Governor Perry walked in and immediately gave a warm embrace to Senator Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), the one Senate Democrat who voted for House Bill 2.  We can all admire Senator Lucio for standing up for what is in his heart, no matter who is against him. Offering remarks during the signing ceremony were Senator Hegar (Senate sponsor of HB 2), Representative Laubenberg (House author of HB 2), Governor Perry, and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst.  A few of the day’s more memorable quotes are posted below.

After HB 2 was officially signed into law and all the photo-ops were taken, we headed over to lunch at Ruth’s Chris.  Sponsored by Texas Right to Life along with a generous pro-life friend, our legislative team enjoyed visiting with almost seventy House and Senate members, Concerned Women for America, Carol Everett of the Heidi Group, and other pro-life advocacy groups. At my table, seated with five House members and one Senator, I enjoyed listening to the officials discuss the likely impact redistricting will have on their districts, their primary opponents, and speculation on those seeking higher office.  For the second time that day, Senator Hegar managed to make me tear up with his humble words regarding the important work he and his colleagues undertook.  I was honored to be a part of this day and have been blessed to watch this legislation come together by such committed co-workers, legislators, and their staff, all of whom helped make Texas safer for women and preborn babies.

Sen. Hegar: “The power of prayer was immense that day {of the Senate debate and vote}.”

Rep. Laubenberg: “Governor Perry, your legacy in Texas will be one of economic growth but your legacy in eternity will be a defender of life.”

Governor Perry to legislators: “Folks, I want you to go home.  As long as you get that transportation funding bill on my desk.”

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst: “For those of you chanting outside, we respect your First Amendment.  And we love you.  Just like we love the preborn.”

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The Impact of Charlee Jean

While attempting to run in between the rain and this *slightly* cooler Texas heat, Aaron Watson’s “Zero to Sixty” started playing on my IPod.  (Aaron Watson is a Texas country music artist who loves his wife and kids, is pro-life, and most importantly, recently tweeted me and Emily Horne.). “Zero to Sixty” warns a young dad that when he is too busy professionally, he’ll regret neglecting being too busy personally. When talking about spending time with kids, my mind automatically goes to Charlee, the daughter of a friend from college, Abby.

This past weekend was spent in God’s country – also known as East Texas. Abby, Charlee, and I went to the Farmer’s Market, took naps, and swam in the pool. I watched in amazement as Abby fulfills her roles as mom, wife, and friend, while still figuring out how to make training for a CrossFit competition 4-days/week a priority.  A CrossFit competition?! That’s just crazy.

Even as I’m writing this post, law school finals are looming. As I made plans to go see Abby and Charlee last weekend, there was a voice in my head saying, “Well, you really should just stay in Waco and study for finals…..”  But thankfully, I’ve had enough other voices in my life warn against taking time with loved ones for granted.  Time doesn’t stand still just because we have deadlines and demands. Babies walk.  Babies talk. And then they drive away.

I’m ever thankful for Abby and Chase, the Pools, and the rest of the Taylor clan for sharing their little girl with me. Laying in the recliner with Charlee sleeping on my chest was worth not studying Negotiable Instruments for that hour and half. Totally.

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