Reasonable people: they exist.

I want to take a minute to say thank you to my friends and family who are of the Republican/Conservative/religious persuasion(s) and who still find the current actions of the Texas legislature abhorrent. These are people I know and love, some of whom proudly voted for Romney in the presidential election. They've voted for Rick Perry. Some have not voted Republican across the board, but still don't find themselves in the slavering yellow dog Democrat aisle, either. We've (mostly politely) argued about a variety of political issues over the years, but we also agree on a lot of things.

These are people who are fiscally conservative, who believe in a Christian God, many of whom call themselves pro-life, and who are… socially progressive. These are self-proclaimed conservatives who are wearing orange shirts, buying Mizuno shoes, and proudly Standing With Texas Women.

The media would like you to think these people do not exist. Blogs would encourage you to think this, too. MY blog rails on and on about Texas Republicans and the Religious Right, and Republicans in general, blah blah, as if they are all part of one blob of insanity. So I thought I would take a break from that railing to say that when I go on and on about Texas Republicans I should probably do so with an asterisk. Because not every Texas Republican is an uneducated buffoon bent on evangelizing nutballery throughout the state and country. For example: some Texas Republicans understand that one can be pro-life AND pro- sex education AND pro- contraception because supporting these kinds of things is, in fact, an excellent way to reduce the amount of abortions performed in the state. 

What worries me is that these moderate Republicans are losing their voices at an alarming rate. (Not just in Texas, but everywhere.) Tea Party nutballs seem to vilify moderate Republicans almost more than they vilify Democrats. They raise money and vow vengeance against any Republican anywhere who dares to compromise or use common sense when trying to debate and pass laws. So no wonder this idiotic, demeaning, illegal, and unconscionable legislation is getting a majority vote in a red state. The legislators know that they will be targeted by not just the loose cannons in Texas, but by the loose cannons running the Elephant Show for the whole country. Every now and then someone (even someone with a pretty damn conservative voting record) tries to show some sense, but it doesn't last long, and the threat of dire electoral consequences looms.

I think it's important to remind ourselves that not every Republican is festering lunatic. But I also think it's important to note that every moderate Republican in office who stands idly by while the festering lunatics bully the party… well, they count as festering lunatics until they're brave enough to stand their ground and vote against legislation they know is wrong. Of course, they'll never BE brave enough to stand their ground unless they know they have the money and the votes to beat back the festering lunatics.

It's a festering lunatic ouroboros, y'all.

And yet… if the non- Democrat, non- lunatics among us show that they have powerful numbers, then maybe, just maybe they can wrench their party back from the hands of the senseless. Is that possible? Do they have the powerful numbers? I don't know. Do they at least have the numbers and the balls to stand up to bullies and say WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH. I don't know that, either. But I can tell you that I would welcome any election between a moderate Republican and a Democrat, just because it would mean that we've banded together to eliminate the threat of more Jodie Laubenberg's getting elected. We might actually be able to have a debate that isn't full of lies and bad science. Can you imagine?

The thing is, festering lunatics are not the majority. They can't be. I refuse to believe that. I guess this is the whole point I'm trying to get across. There are a LOT of people, even in Texas, who are reasonable and smart and who predominately vote red. Now, I'm not going to go canvassing for Republican voters, but I do want to advocate for my moderate friends. It's possible they don't want me to, and that's fine. I just think it's necessary to point out that there seems to be a variety of populations of people in Texas who have a metaphorical gun to their head. And while it may sound insane to say it out loud, I think one of those groups is made up of non-lunatic Republicans. The festering lunatics have moderates in their sights. They have women in their sights. They have anyone with brown skin and/or an accent in their sights. They have poor and middle class children in their sights. HOW do they have so much power? 

Yes, the Democrats are mobilizing against this out-of-control craziness. But what I also wish is that the moderate Republicans would mobilize, too. If you're torn by your fiscal vs. social beliefs, don't close your eyes and hold your nose and give someone like Greg Abbott your vote. Please don't. Fight the good fight and work towards getting someone more reasonable on your side. If that's impossible, think about voting blue. We are clearly not the enemy. Not in Texas. Not with people like Jodie Laubenberg on the loose and getting elected UNOPPOSED

Now let's all put on our Mizunos and stand with Texas women. Red or Blue, you have a mama or a daughter or a sister or a grandmother. And this current legislation is about so much more than just abortions and whether or not fetuses have ten fingers and ten toes. It's about dismantling civil rights. It's about some kind of mystifying vengeance against already disadvantaged women. It's about increasing the birth rate and decreasing the health care and safety of women and babies. It's about turning back the clock on women's rights. It's about the government telling people what to do with their own bodies. Don't be fooled by rhetoric and twisted words. There is nothing about this legislation that protects women. Nothing.

For anyone with a modicum of sense, we know this cannot stand. So when Greg Abbott announces his intent to run for governor I want my fiscally conservative friends to think about what their next steps are. When people like Ms. Laubenberg run for re-election, let's not have them running unopposed. No more hiding in the shadows.

Texas Democrats and moderate Republicans don't agree on everything, and I don't want us to. But I do think we agree that this state is out of control right now. And I think we agree that this cannot stand. We can work together to make sure the festering lunatics are booted out come primary time.

And then after that? Well. May the best woman win.  

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Changing the argument

You know what? I fully admit I'm tired of talking about abortion abortion abortion. I know that's what the Texas lege wants us to talk about. And that's what the outside agitators want us to talk about – you know, the people being bused into Austin from other states because trying to legislate the reproductive organs of the women in their own states just isn't enough? They want us to talk about unborn babies with fingernails and eyebrows. They want us to talk about abortionists getting rich off of the travails of high school girls with loose morals and liberal parents. They want us to scream at each other about God and Satan and viability dates and pain receptors. They want video clips they can use for fund-raising. They want a circus.

But when we're finished standing in the heat and tamping down the desire to grab shoulders and shout SAFE, LEGAL, AND UNNECESSARY at people whose minds will never be changed, you know where an important part of this whole, troubling conversation needs to hunker down and spend some time? You know what I really want to talk about? 

Hypocrisy.

Let's talk about that.

Let's talk about a governor and legislature who will preach about protecting the lives of women and babies, and then decline $4 billion for medicaid that would have actually – wait for it – protected the lives of women and babies.

Let's talk about a governor who will veto a ban on texting while driving because he doesn't want to "micromanage" the behavior of adults, and then radically support laws that will – wait for it – micromanage the behavior of adults. (Well, micromanage the behavior of women… but shockingly, even in Texas women count as adults.)

Let's talk about a governor who travels to other states bragging about the fecund business  landscape of the state of Texas, and then – wait for it – vetoes the state level Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay law.

Let's further talk about a pro-life governor who, after Sandy Hook – wait for it - traveled to Connecticut to brag about lax gun laws in Texas, and who worked to pass laws that would encourage teachers and college students to bring guns to school. (Albeit, with mixed results. Whew.)

Let's talk about a governor who spits in the face of the federal government every chance he gets and then – wait for it – begs for federal money, and cries out in indignation when the federal government is "too slow" in offering aid after a disaster.

Let's talk about a governor who rails on about making all abortion clinics ambulatory surgical centers when – wait for it – those are exactly the kind of centers that make his lobbyist sister wealthy and powerful.

I could go on and on. Seriously. I haven't even touched on how closing women's health clinics across the state could very possibly increase the deaths and injuries related to abortion. I haven't talked about how closing these clinics could send more uninsured women and children into ERs and the labyrinth of public assistance. I haven't talked about the decimation of education funding and how that – and lack of health care – is linked to the state's inexcusable numbers of poverty-stricken citizens. 

So let's broaden the subject and talk about hypocrisy, shall we? Let's talk about the state House and Senate legislators who are helping this all happen – and let's also talk about the ones who are standing by and not trying to stop any of this from happening. Then, let's talk about how we get this fool and his cronies and the hand-wringing-can't-make-their-own-decisions-flaccid-politicians OUT OF OFFICE. Because, folks, this abortion legislation is most likely going to be passed into law. Unless the Democrats flee the state so that a quorum can't be reached, or they have some super fancy tricks up their sleeves (and maybe they do – they've been very mum on the subject), we appear to be headed for the Land of Lawsuits. These Republican legislators listening to our testimony? They are biding their time. They are giving the smallest semblance of "fairness" that they can, and then they're going to do their damnedest to ram this legislation through. BAM. 

And while that's going on? While the anti-choice people high five each other and Rick Perry announces to the world that he is the Grand Poobah Of Texas Uteri? The rest of us will be having a conversation about hypocrisy and about how we have ways of shutting that down. That is an important conversation we need to start having right now. Elections will be here before you know it. And now that we know there's a rising tide of non-zealot, reasonable minded Texans, we have momentum to get some shit done.

I think I'll let Representative Sylvester Turner, from Houston, have the last word here, regarding hypocrisy and abortion and why it all matters. This is taken directly from Mr. Turner's comments at the end of the House State Affairs committee meeting last week. You can see it here. His comments are at the very end of the video. 

This is what concerns me, and let me just be pointed: I am a Christian. A strong one. But when I go to my district and I see children who don't have insurance; mothers who are trying to take care of children we see every single day, OK? And when I see the legislature turn its back on children who are uninsured, who are struggling to reach their full potential, tell me where does pro-life stop and start?

Does pro-life stop when a child is born and we no longer fight for their quality existence? Because when I go to my district and I see children who are struggling, and I listen to all this testimony, what do I say to kids we see every day? What do I say to them? […] These are kids who are *here* on the face of the Earth walking every single day that we see. So, is our love greater for those that we don't see? And less for those we see every day? That have already been born? THAT'S the disconnect that I have. That's my disconnect. As a Christian, that's my tension with this whole issue and with those who advocate for it. Because these are kids we see. I could bring them up in here and put them in front of us.

Help me understand. Why does it seem as though it stops when a child is born and walking on  the face of the Earth? […] How can you love those that you don't see greater than those that you see every day? That's the disconnect that I feel. That's my tension. And that's why I feel conflicted on this subject.  

So, yes, let's make our signs and prepare our statements and wear our orange shirts, and let's flood the Capitol with protests and with indignation and with a sea of non-violent demonstration. But let's also start broadening the conversation. This kind of hypocritical farce of "legislating" has to stop.

And we are are the ones who will stop it.  

I know you kind of want to lose your mind right now

Last night in
Austin, the House State Affairs Committee heard testimony for and against HB2 (including testimony from this very blog. Thanks so much, Kate!). This is the brand-new bill introduced to replace SB5 – you remember that one, right?
The one that was killed twice after
its predecessor-bills failed to make it into law during the regular session.
Some bills just can't take a hint, can they? Wendy Davis: BadassExtraordinaire, killed it the first time, with help from her posse of Democratic senators, plus a vociferous group of supporters. The second time,
it was killed by eagle-eyed reporters on Twitter who caught Senate Republicans
trying to alter the timestamp of the vote. 

Ever
determined to smash their legislation through, no matter what their
constituents want, the Republican leadership called for a second special
session and that lead us to last night.

Thousands of
people signed up to testify. There were voices from both sides of the argument.
There were voices from The Land Of WTF
(ex: "we know that humans don't gestate donkey fetuses" Yes. Thank
you, sir.). There were voices lined up for hours and hours waiting their turn.
But the only voice that seems to have had any sway is that of Representative Byron
Cook, committee chair. He repeatedly spoke over his colleagues, refused to
admonish outbursts from the crowd when those outbursts were in support of
pro-life testimony (yet quickly and fiercely threatened to remove people who
dared to clap or cheer in support of pro-choice testimony), mysteriously was
able to finagle an unrepresentative percentage of for-the-bill testimony,
refused to allow testimony from the over 1,000 people still in line to speak,
and THEN called for a vote on the bill after he said he would not call for a vote, thus disallowing
Representative Sylvester Turner to add his planned amendments.

The vote was
called, the police were brought in, the rooms were cleared. The bill goes to
the House floor.

So that
happened.

It was…
discouraging. 

But I want to
grab you all by the shoulders and plant tiny kisses on your cheeks and plead
with you to not be discouraged. Turn that frown upside
down, y'all. Look at what we've done! LOOK! We have these zealots on their
heels. We can see the whites of their eyes. They are pulling out every tool
they have to cheat and manipulate their way to getting this bill passed. They are even pissing off their fellow party members. And let's be perfectly honest –
this bill will likely be passed and then signed into law. There will be great
legal battles. But don't let that get you down. YOU MUST NOT LET IT SILENCE
YOU. Maybe it won't get signed into law. Maybe we will succeed again in killing
it. But if we don't… if the Crazy Zombie Abortion Bill From Hell reanimates
itself, do not let it melt your brain and crush your soul. 

Because look
at what we've done. Wendy Davis has galvanized Texas progressives. Were you
aware of how many badass Democrats hold state office in Texas?
I wasn't. I had no idea that Sylvester Turner was so eloquent and passionate
and fiery. I had never before heard Jessica Farrar lambaste another Representative. And Kirk
Watson? Leticia Van de Putte? Be
still my heart.

Why wasn't I
fully aware of this badassery? I can think of a couple of reasons. The first is
the most obvious: like most progressives in Texas, I was willing to shake my
head, sigh deeply, and know that my voice would never be loud enough to be
truly heard in this state. Not under the realm of Rick Perry. Not under the
thumb of such total Republican control. I was just happy to live in Austin, on
a blue island surrounded by a red sea. It takes a lot of energy to fight
against those red currents, and while celebrating the likes of Julian Castro as
he wows Democrats on a national stage, when it comes to state politics the
weight of it all is sometimes just too much.

The second
reason for my lack of badassery awareness is that maybe our Texas
state Democrat badasses have
been keeping their badassery under cover. Sure there have been
moments of shining indignation, but nothing, nothing like this… not since a
handful of state Democrats fled to Oklahoma in 2003 to protest redistricting
legislation.

So what
gives? Why now? Is this legislation finally just too much? Or is it that our
state Democrats have seen our energy and heard our voices. Now they know we
we're really out
here, just like we've seen their energy
and heard their voices
and now we know they're really out there. Thank you, Rick
Perry, for pissing us off to such an extent that Texas Democrats have
awoken from our dejected Rip Van Winkle slumber to kick some ass and take some
names.  

Maybe we were
all just exhausted and beaten down and in exactly the place the Republicans
wanted us to be – grouchy, quiet, shaking our tiny fists here and there, but
unable to muster any power. 

Well look
out, folks.

Even if this
legislation passes, we cannot lose this momentum. We cannot lose the energy and
the power and the galvanization we've experienced over the past few weeks.

So please
don't let last night get you down. And whatever shenanigans occur in the next
few weeks, don't get angry, get mobilized. Take your indignation and your anger and your fear and use
it for good. Think about upcoming elections. We need to be brainstorming ways to get these people out of office. When everyone begins to realize that reasonable people outnumber crazy zealots, the tide will have to change. Don't let our momentum stall by getting tired and angry. People like Byron Cook and Rick Perry and David Dewhurst WANT you to get
tired and angry. That makes it so much easier for them, doesn't it? We can't
make it easier for them. We can't.

Don't stand
down. Keep your voices loud and clear. Because even if Texas Republicans want
you to think your voice will not be heard, there are people listening across the state and across the country.

When you start to feel beaten down, tell yourself that.

People are listening, and they're ready for a change.

Let’s talk about nuance

Right now, thousands of women and their supporters are descending upon the Texas Capitol, clad in orange, wielding clever signs, and prepping for a hell of a fight.

Right now, my daughter is prepping for tonight's birthday festivities. She's 7 today, and the biggest choice she has to make right now is how big of a piece of cake she wants.

Right now, I'm on the couch fighting off a bit of a panic attack because today is also The Day. The day that everything in my life changed. The day that difficult decisions went from "what color do we paint the kitchen" to "my 20 week pregnancy is failing, what do we do?"

In 2008, on the day of my girlchild's second birthday, I was wrapping presents when I felt something weird happen. I was 20 weeks into a difficult pregnancy and was immediately alarmed at the warm gush that struck, unprovoked, as I leaned over to tape the edge of a present. After a frantic trip to the hospital, a follow-up with my OB, and a referral to a perinatologist, it was confirmed. My water had broken. Devastated is not an accurate word.

The perinatologist performed his ultrasound silently, and then pointed out small pockets of fluid. "All that's left." "Lungs can't grow." "less than 10% chance of carrying two more weeks" "pregnancy not viable" "you could turn septic" "Terminate."  Words and phrases flew at me faster than I could comprehend. He was on the phone scheduling the termination when I finally found my voice. "Stop," I said. "Hang up the phone. I don't choose to terminate. I DON'T CHOOSE TO TERMINATE."

The doctor thought I was crazy. But I had made a choice. My baby was healthy, even though my body was acting like a jerk. I would see things through naturally, for as long as I could. If my baby's health deteriorated, or if my health did, then we would revisit the decision. We had four weeks until viability. (Isaac was born at 28 weeks, lungs tiny but fully formed, health precarious for quite some time, and now a typical nutball kiddo starting Kindergarten in the fall.)

Now, every woman is not as fortunate as I was to be able to make that kind of choice. Circumstances much more dire than mine require decisions and choices everyday. Politicians want you to think these choices are black and white, good or bad, yes or no, but that's not always the case. How could it be?

Not too many months after my own agonizing decision, my friend Holly was faced with one of her own. Her daughter was diagnosed in utero with CDH (congenital diaphragmatic hernia). Her doctors all advised her to terminate, but Holly needed more information before she could make that choice.

I want you to take a minute to read this next part very carefully…. If the laws that Texas Republicans are trying to pass were in place at the time Holly needed to make a decision, she and her husband would not have had time to gather all of the information they needed to make a fully informed choice. That's right – the law that Texas Republicans want pushed through during this second special session would have encouraged Holly to terminate her pregnancy, because she would have had to make her decision before the 20 week cut-off. But because she had time to research and talk with other doctors and parents, Holly was able to continue her pregnancy, seek the medical interventions her daughter needed, and is now the mama to a whip-smart, charming four-year girl.

Did your brain just explode?

These are just two examples of how complicated women's decisions can be. The state of Texas does not need to be legislating these choices. It is, in fact, illegal for the state to do so. And yet our legislators press on. The amount of people trying to cram themselves into my uterus is both astounding and horrifying.

Please don't let politicians trick you into thinking these restrictive laws are for the safety of women and babies. Please don't let them propagate the lie that these are all straightforward decisions; that women faced with these choices are irresponsible and need the state to hold their hands and lead them down the righteous path.

If Texas cared about women and children it wouldn't have the highest rates of poverty. It wouldn't be slashing healthcare. It wouldn't be destroying education. It wouldn't be leading the country in lack of sex education and family planning measures.

For the sake my daughter, your daughter, my sons, your sons, our future as a society, and the future of the state of Texas, please don't be fooled by ill-informed rhetoric and sloppy legislating.

Texas women will not stand down.