No Surprise: Right-wing Activists Respond to Davis News with Sneering Contempt

The long-running war the religious right has waged on women and their freedom to decide for themselves whether and when to have children found a new target this weekend: the acknowledgement by state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for Texas governor, that she had two abortions in the 1990s because of truly heartbreaking medical reasons.

The first was in 1994, when Davis found out she had an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy cannot proceed normally, the fertilized egg can’t survive, and the woman’s life is also in serious jeopardy if the pregnancy isn’t terminated. Davis’ second abortion was in 1997, after multiple doctors told her that the daughter she and her husband were expecting suffered from a severe brain abnormality and would likely not survive delivery or would, if she did survive, be in a permanent vegetative state.

Faced with excrutiatingly difficult decisions and after considering the advice of her doctors, Davis chose to terminate both pregnancies. She and her husband grieved over the loss.

But Melissa Conway of the radical anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life, treats Davis’ revelation and what she experienced with open contempt. In a sneering opinion column on the Texas Tribune’s TribTalk website, Conway pretends to know why Davis really grieved — because she chose abortion:

“Davis’ stated experiences confirm what many post-abortive women feel: the emotional aftermath of abortion.”

What an appallingly callous and calculating thing to say. Davis experienced the kind of deep, painful grief any expectant parent would feel were she to lose a child she wanted so much. But Conway uses that awful misfortune and tragedy to push an ideological argument carefully designed to torment women who seek abortion care. Conway also has the gall to call Davis “extreme” because the senator wants all women to have the same ability to make their own choices about their health and their pregnancies without politicians interfering.

Joe Pojman, head of another radical anti-abortion group, Texas Alliance for Life, said in a statement that “we do not favor or advise abortion in cases when the child has disabilities.” So Pojman is now a medical expert who knows better than the multiple physicians who consulted with Davis and her husband? The level of arrogance and contempt Pojman demonstrates in his statement is simply staggering to behold. Davis didn’t need — nor does any woman need — a political activist and professional busybody “advising” her about what she should do in such situations.

In any case, Davis shouldn’t have to justify her deeply personal choice to terminate those two pregnancies. She made her decisions after long, difficult discussions with her family and her doctors. Fortunately, she was able to obtain safe, legal abortion care at the time. But if people like Conway and Pojman — and the politicians they support — get their way, Texas women will see their ability to choose for themselves whether to seek abortion care increasingly limited or denied altogether.

Posted in abortion, Joe Pojman, Melissa Conway, Texas Alliance for Life, Texas Right to Life, TFNEF, Wendy Davis | 3 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Aug. 31 – Sept. 6)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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Posted in The Week in Quotes | 2 Comments

The 65-Ton, 85-Foot-Long Dreadnoughtus in the Room

The anti-science crowd will be working overtime this weekend to account for this one: scientists have unearthed what could be one of the largest living things to ever walk the planet, a dinosaur so massive that it may have been heavier than a Boeing 737-900 passenger jet.

The report from the L.A. Times:

This hulking dinosaur stood two stories tall at its shoulder and weighed as much as seven Tyrannosauruses rex. It measured 85 feet from head to tail, including its 37-foot-long neck and 30-foot-long muscular tail.

Scientists are hesitant to say that Dreadnoughtus schrani is the largest dinosaur species that ever lived, but it is certainly right up there.

Based on the size of the femur, or thigh bone, and the humerus, or upper arm bone, scientists believe this Dreadnoughtus weighed 65 tons when it died 66 million to 84 million years ago. (They are still working on getting a more precise age.) That would make it heavier than a Boeing 737.

And here’s the kicker: Skeletal evidence suggests that at the time of its death, the gargantuan creature was still growing.

You’ve gotta love science.

Your move, creationists. Time to figure out how two of these got on the Ark right there alongside humans and every other animal to have ever existed, and then fit it all within a timeline of only 10,000 years.

Speaking of which, this classic clip from The Revisionaries comes to mind:

Posted in creationism, TFNEF | 9 Comments

Ted Cruz’s Dad Pushes Offensive Racial History Lesson

Rafael Cruz, a right-wing evangelical Texas minister and the father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, has some peculiar, offensive and absurdly inaccurate things to say on race and American political history. Speaking at a Western Williamson County Republican Club meeting near Austin on Aug. 21, Rafael Cruz argued that black people “need to be educated” about Democrats and that “the average black does not” understand that the minimum wage is bad, BuzzFeed reported on Tuesday.

The suggestion that African Americans are ignorant, especially if they disagree with right-wing dogma, is bad enough. But it gets worse. According to BuzzFeed, Cruz illustrated his points by recounting a conversation he supposedly had with a black pastor in California:

“I said, as a matter of fact, ‘Did you know that Civil Rights legislation was passed by Republicans? It was passed by a Republican Senate under the threat of a filibuster by the Democrats,’” Cruz said. “‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’ And then I said, ‘Did you know that every member of the Ku Klux Klan were Democrats from the South?’ ‘Oh I didn’t know that.’ You know, they need to be educated.”

Almost none of what he said there is true. The Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960 and 1964 — the latter being the most sweeping, by far — were each passed by a Democratic House and Senate, although certainly with Republican support. For decades, white Southern Democratic Senators had blocked civil rights legislation, but often with the passive (and sometimes not so passive) support of conservative Republicans. And in the years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, legions of white southern Democrats moved over to the Republican Party.

Was “every member” of the KKK a Democrat from the South? Of course not. The Klan was certainly strong in the South, and it continues to find support among the region’s dwindling number of overt bigots. But the Klan spread into northern states as well. Historian David Chalmers described the spread of the Klan in the 1920s in an essay for the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Between four million and seven million men and women belonged to the Klan in this era. It was active in every state. It found support in many northern and western cities and was particularly politically powerful in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, and Oregon, as well as the South. The Klan helped elect state and local officials and at least 20 governors and U.S. senators — from Maine to California. In Oregon, a Klan-dominated legislature passed an anti-Catholic school law, later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 1925), that required public school attendance. The Klan was deeply involved in politics, but it did not form its own political party. It was generally Democratic in the South and Republican in the North. It had no national platform. The Klan was a major issue at the 1924 Democratic Convention and the national election; in the 1928 presidential election, when New York Catholic Al Smith was the Democratic candidate, it helped the Republicans win.

And while it’s true that a lot of southern white Democrats belonged to or were sympathetic to the KKK up to the 1950s and ’60s, many of them left the Democratic Party as the party’s national leaders successfully pushed civil rights efforts. There’s a reason, after all, that Republican presidential nominees Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Richard Nixon in 1968 employed successful strategies to gain the support of many of those white southerners who had once voted overwhelmingly Democratic.

That Cruz would vomit such nonsense is hardly surprising. He has a history of saying crazy things. In just the last year, for example, he has declared that “communism and evolution go hand in hand,” has argued that separation of church and state is just a “one-way wall,” and has lied to fellow pastors by claiming that a new San Antonio ordinance would allow the city to fine clergy who preach against homosexuality.

Now on the issue of civil rights, Cruz is pushing the same kind of cherry-picking, revisionist history that phony historian David Barton has employed over and over in his own attempt to hide the fact that the Party of Lincoln became the party of angry whites in much of the South.

Of course, Cruz and Barton aren’t the only ones who promote ignorance and distortions when it comes to our country’s civil rights history. We’ve seen far-right members of the Texas State Board of Education do it as well. That’s one big reason why the state board’s adoption of new history textbooks for Texas public schools is so important this year. It’s time to put a stop to the right’s rewriting of American history.

Posted in civil and equal rights, David Barton, Rafael Cruz, TFNEF | 5 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Aug. 24 – 30)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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Ouch! Texas Judge Slams Right-winger for Wasting His Time

It’s always good to see folks in responsible positions refuse to play games with far-right fanatics who substitute ignorant, facts-free ideology for honest research and expertise. So we enjoyed reading a particular section of state District Judge John Dietz’s opinion on Thursday that the public school finance system in Texas violates the state Constitution.

The case is almost certainly headed to the Texas Supreme Court down the road. And Judge Dietz’s opinion is long — nearly 400 pages. But check out pages 335-336 of that opinion.

In his lengthy list of “Findings of Fact,” Judge Dietz rips into wild and unsubstantiated claims that the head of the right-wing, corporate-funded Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast, made when he testified in the case last year. The Heartland Institute argues, among other things, that the overwhelming scientific evidence on the growing threat of global climate change is wrong. It also supports voucher schemes that take funding from neighborhood public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools instead.

In his January 2013 testimony in the school finance base, Bast claimed that the Texas Taxpayers’ Savings Grant Program, a voucher scheme that failed to pass the Texas Legislature in 2011, would save the state about $2 billion over the first two years. As Dietz points out in his opinion, state officials strongly disputed Bast’s ridiculous math. In fact, Bast’s claims aren’t remotely close to reality. But here’s the best part of what Dietz wrote:

Mr. Joseph Bast, president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, testified for the Intervenors regarding the Texas Taxpayers’ Savings Grant Programs (“TTSGP”), a school voucher bill that failed in the 82nd Legislative Session. As a threshold matter, this Court finds that Mr. Bast is not a credible witness and that he did not offer reliable opinions in this matter. While Mr. Bast described himself as an economist, he holds neither undergraduate nor graduate degrees in economics, and the highest level of education he completed was high school. Mr. Bast testified that he is 100% committed to the long-term goal of getting government out of the business of educating its own voting citizens. Further, his use of inflammatory and irresponsible language regarding global warming, and his admission that the long term goal of his advocacy of vouchers is to dismantle the “socialist” public education system further undermine his credibility with this Court.


Here’s the shorter version of Judge Dietz’s opinion: Stop wasting my time, fool.

Posted in climate change, Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast, public education, TFNEF, vouchers | 8 Comments

Anti-abortion Extremists Still Aren’t Telling the Truth about HB 2

The Texas Legislature’s passage of House Bill 2 last summer has led to the closing of most abortion clinics across the state. In fact, the number of abortion clinics in all of Texas will have dropped from 44 in 2011 to as few as six next month if HB 2 is fully implemented. Yet activists who helped pass that bill still aren’t telling the truth about what they were trying to do.

Consider, for example, an interview with Kyleen Wright, head of the anti-abortion and anti-sex ed group Texans for Life Coalition, in the September issue of Texas Monthly. Wright tries to persuade readers that the purpose of the draconian anti-abortion legislation passed last year was to protect women, not close clinics:

We had no idea how many clinics would close. I don’t want to be disingenuous: we’re not unhappy when abortion clinics close, because we think that abortion hurts women and we know that it ends the life of a separate, unique human being. But the part of the legislation that our organization was so passionate about was the hospital admitting privileges. That was about getting some bad actors out of the industry.

Wright goes on to talk about two women who told her about horrible experiences they had with a particular abortion doctor. At least one of those experiences, according to Wright, involved being molested by the doctor. So, she says, the requirement that doctors obtain hospital admitting privileges is simply a tool for protecting women from bad doctors.

But it was already illegal for a doctor to molest his or her patients. Forcing all doctors who provide abortion care to obtain hospital admitting privileges simply creates another obstacle for providers of a legal medical procedure. And by pressuring hospitals to deny admitting privileges, anti-abortion extremists can stop doctors from providing safe, legal abortion care.

Moreover, as the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas explains, such requirements don’t increase patient safety; they simply give “hospitals veto power over the existence of providers”:

“(T)he risk of transferring a patient from an outpatient abortion clinic to a hospital is less than 1 out of 1,000. When such a transfer occurs, it is important that the physician most qualified to care for that patient treat her; in many cases, that may not be the abortion provider. In addition, hospitals are obligated to provide emergency care to any patient experiencing a medical emergency under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986 (EMTALA). It is standard practice for the abortion provider as the referring physician to contact the emergency room physician in order to inform the medical staff about the patient, regardless of whether the referring physician has admitting and staff privileges there. A recent analysis of complications of office-based surgery in Florida and Alabama concluded that “requiring physician board certification and physician hospital privileges does not seem to increase safety of patients undergoing surgical procedures in the office setting.”

Wright is also being disingenuous when she suggests that her organization was mostly interested in that requirement on admitting privileges. The Texans for Life Coalition blog last summer made pretty clear that the organization passionately supported all of HB 2’s burdensome regulations:

The pro-life omnibus bill is historic legislation that will save thousands of babies each year and better protect women. It bans abortions after 20 weeks when babies can feel pain, requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, requires abortion facilities to upgrade to that of other surgical centers and better regulates medical abortions.

The Texas Policy Evaluation Project points out (as have health care professionals) that every one of those regulations was medically unnecessary.

Had enough of extremists who use government to interfere in the decisions women make about their reproductive health and whether and when to have children? Then join us in telling far-right politicians to stop the attacks on legal, safe abortion care in Texas.

Posted in abortion, Kyleen Wright, TFNEF | 7 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Aug. 17 – 23)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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The Most EPIC Animated GIF Ever Created in the 4.5 Billion-Year History of the Earth

Offered without comment (via this Popular Science profile of friend of TFN, and last year’s EPIC Evening keynote speaker, Bill Nye the Science Guy).

Posted in Bill Nye, science | 1 Comment

Three Days in Austin: A Texas Rising Story

This is the latest in a series of blog posts on Texas Rising, the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s campaign to uplift the voices of the rising electorate, 18-29 year olds, across the state.

By James Carneiro (writer bio)
TFN Student Activist

They came from every corner of the state.

Some only had to make a quick jaunt over from San Marcos, others had to endure the eight-hour drive from El Paso. Some had been working with the Texas Freedom Network for years, a few of them had only just heard of the organization. They were a cross-section of an increasingly diverse state, representing every race, religion, and sexuality. No matter their differences, these people all had one thing in common: They are young, they are pissed off, and they are most certainly voting.

The 2014 Texas Rising Summer Institute ran from July 31 to Aug. 3, and in that brief time a whole lot got done.

Reproductive justice was an essential component of the institute. Activists gave presentations on combating the cultural stigmas surrounding abortion. Many people who have abortions are degraded as “selfish” and “irresponsible,” making it easier for anti-choice advocates to say abortion is immoral. The activists turned this argument on its head, letting people who had abortions tell their stories. This helps to humanize them and give them a voice they never had in the national conversation. Allowing people to tell their abortion stories is what the 1 in 3 campaign is all about, the activists said, and their stories clearly show why access to safe and legal abortion is a human right.

Holly Doyle, the leader of TFN’s Texas State chapter, gave an incredibly insightful presentation on why reproductive justice matters. Doyle said the legal right to an abortion is meaningless without actual access to one. In order to bring about reproductive justice, we must address structural inequalities rooted in racism and classism, she said.

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Posted in Texas Rising, TFNEF | 1 Comment