Today, Governor Rick Perry signed into law a sweeping abortion measure. My heart broke for all of what my Republican uncle in Lubbock calls “my girls.” My heart broke for one girl and one baby. Really, my heart broke for this one girl.
“My girls” are Texas minors seeking to terminate a pregnancy through the judicial bypass process. For the past six years I have managed a legal hotline called Jane’s Due Process. Primarily, we help minors from across Texas navigate the obstacle course known as the Texas judicial bypass law — or Chapter 33 cases, as our referral attorneys call them. I personally have assisted more than a thousand minors who have called our 24/7 hotline in search of help to terminate a pregnancy.
I have heard so many stories of abandonment, threats of being kicked out, threats of physical harm or harm to the boyfriends, families breaking up or falling on hard times, parents with life threatening diseases. Stories that burn into your psyche and bubble up with rage as the Texas legislators callously decide to make rape or incest victims carry pregnancies to term or essentially close 90 percent of the clinics in Texas. Basically, the bill would wipe out all abortion providers west of Interstate 35.
Today, Governor Perry was praised by Rep. Jody Laubenberg, the sponsor of the anti-abortion bill who became an overnight sensation when, during debate on HB2, she said, “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out.” Today, Laubenberg said Perry would be known for “eternity” for his work. And all I can think about is the here and now – how to set up a transportation line to get minors – and others seeking abortions for that matter – to a clinic that will survive the draconian TRAP laws.
Back to the girl who broke my heart. I picked up a minor this month to get her to court for a judicial bypass case. She is taking care of a baby she had nine months ago, a preemie who spent months in the neonatal unit and needs around the clock care. This minor has not left her house for months. She is in constant fear the Medicaid-provided nurses will screw up her baby’s trach. As is true with so many of my cases, this minor was kicked off Medicaid 90 days after her delivery and thus was not eligible for state-funded family planning services. Texas has the highest rate of repeat teen births in the country and one of the highest teen pregnancy rates. This girl had the doubly bad luck to have a dad incarcerated for drug dealing and a mom suffering from schizophrenia. She has no family on which to fall back. She is alone. She would like to graduate from high school and go on to nursing school. But she is scared that being away from her house could allow a mishap with her baby’s trach.
As I watch the healthy and prosperous politicians at the bill signing, I can’t help but think they live in a parallel universe far different from that of the minors who call our hotline. One in four of our clients is an orphan or orphan de facto. One in five of our clients already has been pregnant at least once, which is not really surprising because Texas’ family planning network has been dismantled and parental consent is required at many of the clinics that remain open.
My questions for Governor Perry, Rep. Laubenberg and all those who want to outlaw abortion are where are you when desperate folks are in desperate situation? Will you be there to remove the trach tube and clean the stoma? Will you make sure it is “cleaned out” so my girls can finish their education? Won’t you lavish some of your compassion on my girls?