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2016 Texas Republican Platform - Part 7, Abortion / Planned Parenthood

Republican ElephantThis entry is part of a series taking a look at the latest Texas Republican Party Platform. For a list of all entries in this series, go to the Introduction. This entry will cover abortion, and the related issue of funding for Planned Parenthood.

I've explained my position on abortion a few times previously. The entry, Abortion, explains my views in detail. Another entry, Ben Carson - On the Issues, Part I, contains a good short summary, which I'll quote here.

"There are many liberals who see this issue differently from me, but I do think it comes down to balancing the rights of the developing human in utero with those of the fully human mother. But just because a clump of cells happens to have the right genetics and is alive doesn't make it a human being with rights. In fact, it's cheapening the value of all humanity to claim that a bunch of cells with no differentiation is fully human. A human being is much more than just genetics and metabolism. A person has a mind, an emotional life, feelings, thoughts. A newly fertilized egg has none of that, and even throughout most of its development as an embryo in the first trimester, it doesn't have a functioning brain and so doesn't have even the glimmer of what makes a human a human. I see absolutely no reason to privilege those cells over the rights of the mother supporting them.

"As the embryo develops into a fetus and the brain begins to function, thoughts and feelings do begin to occur, so the rights of the fetus should begin to be considered. But it's still a gradual process, so the mother should certainly take precedence over the fetus in any discussion comparing the rights of the two, especially in those early stages (or more than two for multiple pregnancies). And there are many circumstances, such as genetic conditions like dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (to pull an example from my other entry), that would result in severe suffering for the person that would develop from that fetus, that are legitimate reasons to perform abortions later than the first trimester, and even 'partial birth abortions' that the forced birth crowd try to demonize."

I'll add that since I wrote that, from a legal perspective, I've been coming around more to the bodily autonomy argument. Even if a fetus were considered to be fully human (which I obviously don't agree with, as explained above), the government cannot force one citizen to sacrifice their body for the sake of another citizen. The classic example is organ donation. If a person was going to die unless they got a bone marrow transplant, and you happen to have the right blood type and other factors to be compatible with them, the government can't force you to donate bone marrow. In a similar vein, the government can't force a woman to donate her body to support a fetus and risk all the associated complications.


Getting to the platform, several of these planks were nearly the same, so I'm just going to list those ones all together and respond once.

Texas Protecting Texans- We support Federal legislation remanding all authority over abortion back to the individual States and removing all standing on this issue from the federal judiciary as given by Article III in the US Constitution. We also support family control of end of life decisions.
Abolish Abortion- We call upon the Texas Legislature to enact legislation stopping the murder of unborn children; and to ignore and refuse to enforce any and all federal statutes, regulations, executive orders, and court rulings, which would deprive an unborn child of the right to life.
We, the delegates of the 2016 Republican Party of Texas State Convention, call upon the 85th Texas Legislature to: ... Abolish abortion by enacting legislation to stop the murder of unborn children; and to ignore and refuse to enforce any and all federal statutes, regulations, executive orders, and court rulings, which would deprive an unborn child of the right to life.

I already wrote nearly the same thing in reference to marriage equality, but unfortunately for the Texas Republicans, there's this thing called the Fourteenth Amendment, that does in fact give the Supreme Court jurisdiction to overturn state laws that "abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States" or "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" or "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". So when you try to pass laws that deny women bodily autonomy, you're violating the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Supreme Court can strike down those laws.

And I've covered this before, too, but states have no right to reject Supreme Court decisions, and it's just absurd to see that type of language in the platform.


These next two are related, so I'm going to discuss them together.

Funding- We support the elimination of public funding or the use of public facilities to advocate, perform, or support elective abortions, embryonic stem cell research, research on fetal tissue, or human cloning.
Fetal Tissue Harvesting and Stem Cell Research- We support legislation prohibiting experimentation or commercial use of human fetal tissue, which requires or is dependent upon the destruction of human life. We encourage adult stem cell research using cells from umbilical cords, from adults, and from any other means that does not kill human embryos.

Maybe I'm being to nitpicky, but how can you support the 'elimination' of something that doesn't even exist? Public funding does not support elective abortions.

But aside from the accuracy of their claim, this is still unreasonable. Given everything I said above, it should be pretty clear that I don't think embryos nor fetal tissue are deserving of any special legal protection. And research into these areas has huge potential. I wrote about this a few years ago in the entry, Stem Cell Veto, in the wake of George Bush's veto of stem cell research funding. Here's an excerpt from that entry.

"Imagine you see somebody fall into a flooded river (to really pull at your heart strings, you can imagine it's your own child). This river's pulling them away pretty fast. There's a guy on a bridge down stream with a rope. Now, if he throws the rope, there's no guarantee that the person in the river will be able to get it and hold on. And, there's always the possibility that the person may get rescued by someone else. But what would you think if the person on the bridge decided to not throw the rope at all?

"That's basically what Bush just did. Embryonic Stem (ES) cells are not a guaranteed cure, and there are other lines of research that may lead to treatments for some of the diseases that currently look like they may be treated by ES cells, but why would somebody decide to maintain a ban on such a promising avenue of research?"

If research on embryonic stem cells or fetal tissue does eventually provide cures for some diseases, either directly or indirectly, how many people will have suffered needlessly or died prematurely because of the opposition to and bans on this research, privileging non-sentient cells above the needs of living, breathing, thinking, and feeling human beings?


These next two are also related, so again, I'm going to discuss them together.

Planned Parenthood- We support completely eliminating public funding for Planned Parenthood.
Improper Government Funding- We support enforcement of current law prohibiting public assets being used for private groups, such as ACLU, ACORN, and Planned Parenthood without proper vetting and authorization and urge the Texas Legislature to enact civil and criminal penalties for violation of the law which currently has no enforcement mechanism.

Planned Parenthood is a major target of Republicans. I discussed this last year in the entry, A Response to Mike Huckabee's Misrepresentations of Planned Parenthood, written in the wake of the fraudulent videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue for a profit.

First of all, I don't think most people have an accurate understanding of what all Planned Parenthood does. They seem to think it's primarily an abortion clinic. In reality, only around 3% of its total funding is spent on abortion service, with the rest being spent on STD screening & treatment, contraception, cancer screening, and other women's health services. And just to be clear and echo what I wrote above, none of that funding for abortion services comes from public funding at all in the state of Texas, and across the rest of the country, no federal funding supports abortion services (though some individual states do use state funds for that purpose). To reuse a graphic from that previous entry, here's a breakdown of how Planned Parenthood spends its money.

Planned Parenthood Spending

Second, the cuts to funding of Planned Parenthood in Texas are having significant negative effects for the state's residents. Here's an article from the L.A. Times summarizing some of these findings, After Texas stopped funding Planned Parenthood, low-income women had more babies, and a study from the New England Journal of Medicine, Effect of Removal of Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women's Health Program. To quote the last paragraph of the NEJM study:

"In conclusion, the implementation of the 2013 exclusion of Planned Parenthood affiliates from a Medicaid waiver program in Texas was associated with adverse changes in the rates of provision and continuation of contraception and with increases in the rate of childbirth covered by Medicaid. These findings have implications regarding the likely consequences of proposals to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates from public funding in other states or at the national level."

These types of policies being pushed by Texas Republicans are harming our state's citizens.


Dismemberment Abortions- We strongly encourage the Texas Legislature to prohibit elective dismemberment abortions, a type of dilation and evacuation abortion, which take the life of preborn children by removing their limbs.

This appears to be the latest strategy of the forced-birth crowd. Similar to the 'partial birth abortion' controversy of recent years, 'dismemberment abortions' is an invented term that isn't used by the medical community. To summarize some of the content from the Think Progress article, The Next Anti-Abortion Strategy Lurking Around The Corner, this is probably an attempt to outlaw Dilation and Evacuation, which is the standard practice for abortions performed after 12 weeks into the pregnancy. But according to one doctor quoted in that article, David Grimes, "The language is so vague that this would be impossible to enforce. It reveals a lack of knowledge of the procedures that the bill proposes to outlaw." Others echoed similar concerns, and that the vague language could lead to legal issues with first trimester abortions, as well. Another doctor, Anne Davis, stated "It has to do with making it so complicated and so burdensome that no one will provide it."


Freedom of Assembly- Because we believe in the freedom of assembly, we urge repeal of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Law. Those who assault peaceful protesters acting under the Constitution should be vigorously prosecuted. Picketing and literature distribution do not fall under the Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

You can read the actual law on Cornell's Law website, 18 U.S. Code ยง 248 - Freedom of access to clinic entrances, or a summary on Abortion.Info, Laws Relating to ProLife Protestors, or even Wikipedia, Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. To quote the summary from the Abortion.info article, the law "prohibits people from using threats, violence, obstructions, or intimidation to prevent people from entering reproductive health facilities or obtaining services at these facilities." The law does not curtail freedom of assembly, with a provision specifically calling out that "Nothing in this section shall be construed ... to prohibit any expressive conduct (including peaceful picketing or other peaceful demonstration) protected from legal prohibition by the First Amendment to the Constitution".

Seeing the actual language of the law, the justification given in this plank seems transparently false, and that it's not about freedom of assembly, but all about wanting to physically obstruct or intimidate people trying to enter clinics (or worse).

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In what's become almost a running theme for this series, these planks are full of language showing that the Texas Republicans don't understand fundamental concepts of how the law works and lack basic Constitutional literacy. Then there are the planks that reveal either misunderstandings or deliberate misrepresentations about what Planned Parenthood does and how it's funded. And the common theme to all of it is their draconian views on reproductive rights, and trying to take away women's right to bodily autonomy.


Continue to Part 8, Health Care

 

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