Today's post is from my friend Tiffany. Tiffany is one of our favorite babysitters and a friend as well. She loves my kids so well and I feel as though I could leave them with her for a week and she' do great. Oh yeah, that's what I did this week! Thanks Tiff! Although I don't agree with everything Tiffany says here, I think it's important to have the discussion and I welcome that discussion here!
This is what Democracy looks like
This picture above I posted on Facebook, the day Wendy Davis filibustered what was SB 5 in the first special session of the Texas Legislature. It was like the picture that was heard from round the world, by the reactions I received from those around me. For some of us, we’ve been at the capitol, in committee meetings, chamber meetings, advocacy days, rallies, etc. through out the entire session. So seeing this many people show up at the capitol filling up the chamber seats that are typically mostly empty, signing up to testify, sitting in meetings and buzzing around the capitol was revitalizing.
No matter your stance on the highly charged “abortion” bills in the Texas Legislature you have to admit, this is what democracy looks like. People speaking up and being a part of the policy process. It is powerful, to know you are a part of something bigger than yourself, that you are a part of making a differences in lives of Texans – it is powerful when it is the people of Texas being a part of the change and not just lobbyists, social workers, legislators, and all the others who do this as part of their career.
This specific bill was tough for me this session, because had you read the bill, and listened to its authors in both the House and the Senate, it was confusing. The bill had a lot of contradictory wordings for the restriction descriptions and the authors didn’t seem able to answer any questions, which made me feel like they had a lower knowledge base than they should have for such an important issue. This bill was hard, because I can fully see both “sides” and why each “side” is fighting so hard for their beliefs. This bill was difficult because I hate the phrases “pro-life” and “pro-choice” – there is so much more to it than those two terms.
I’m going to be honest… I fought against this bill, and I’d like to tell you why. As a social worker and an advocate who participated through out the legislative session, I fought for Medicaid expansion, against rules that would harm Texas children relating to TANF and SNAP (food stamps), children’s mental health laws, sugar sweetened beverages in schools and the list continues- through out the session. I also lent my voice to the poor families of Texas for bills that would benefit my clients that I see on a daily basis, bills that would benefit the lives of poor children and give them the best opportunities for their future and survival. And I’ll be back in 2 years for the next session.
The more I read the “abortion” bill, information about the bill, and listened to the “debate” on the bill the more convinced I became that it would be detrimental to Texas Children. You see right now there isn’t enough money to go around to fund all the Texas children and families that need Medicaid, SNAP, TANF. These already incredibly taxed resources are stretched to their limit and at every turn are getting cut or harder to access for the people who really need them.
Being a social worker has forced me to confront a lot of things in my life. And the answer that follows really comes down to (along with my response to a lot of other “hot button issues” in the political arena) the fact that I don't believe that I can put my moral values/believes/convictions on anyone but myself. I don't have the right to tell someone that my morals are better than theirs, I don't have the right to push my values onto someone else and tell them they have to live their life in my morals and values and beliefs. I don’t want someone else doing that to me, I don’t want another human determining my life based on their belief system. For me this is where I have to trust in the sovereignty of God, and that He is in control. With all of this, I don't believe that the government has the right to withhold human rights. I don't believe the State of Texas, has the right to tell you have to get a procedure done on your body, they don't have the power to tell me I can't go to church on Sunday, or I have to cover my head or my parents can marry me off at the age of 13, I can only do some jobs, or to get a tattoo. The government shouldn’t give me special rights because I'm white, or because I was born in a certain year, the government can’t have that much power and still function as a healthy democracy – a government for the people, by the people.
I whole-heartedly support a conversation happening in the state of Texas related to abortion. I don't know fully where I sit on this issue, I've got some ideas but I'm still working through it. I do believe that the way this bill has been approached in this session has been appalling. I believe that the conversation about Abortion, and Women's reproduction is a very important discussion/debate that needs to happen not under the stress of a special session. I think research needs to be conducted about what this bill would do to the 13 million women living in Texas, and the babies being aborted, and the babies being born. The rights of women and the rights of the unborn are at stake and drawing that line is hard and is going to take a lot of passionate conversations and a lot of both sides respectfully coming to the table to talk and find the best solution – millions of lives are at stake.
I know some incredible children who were conceived in situations of rape, and incest and have been adopted, can I say again these kids are incredible – but this is where I feel like I see God working for His good and His purpose. I understand that many women in Texas, the US and the world do not have the same religious, moral, ethical believes that I do – which allows me to recognize that if this bill passes extreme measures will be taken by women (who do not have my morals, ethics, beliefs) to terminate pregnancy. What I'm saying is that this bill will actually put women's health and safety more in danger than the supposed protection the “ambulatory status” of clinics would bring. Since this bill passed, Texas will have 5 clinics where women who are victims of rape and incest can receive an abortion, many times the women find them selves considering this choice are from disadvantaged situations and they will be unable to travel to the limited clinics Texas will now have. This then puts them in the position to use a coat hanger, the black market clinics that will pop up all across the state, crossing the border to Mexico or another state, etc. to terminate their pregnancy putting their life in danger. I know from talking to my clients that these are the measure they would take because many have talked about how they contemplated them because they were cheaper – and that is before this bill passed. I’ve also sat across from women sobbing, saying they wish their mother had chosen abortion with their lives, because the realities of living in poverty in a country of prosperity was so dramatic and difficult in their lives and they see no way of getting out of poverty. I’ve sat with women as we’ve talked about what their life would be like if they didn’t go through with an abortion, what their child’s life would be like; women who have 5 children they love dearly but can’t feed or clothe and all the “Christian Aid” seems to roll through their lives like a roller coaster. The aid is ripped away when the realities of addiction grip their lives, in the red tape they have to cross to feed their children.
I have never been pregnant, I've never faced the choice of keeping a baby or abortion or adoption. I cannot even imagine the place a woman would have to be in to be considering abortion. The pain a woman goes through after carrying a child for 9 months, and handing that child over to someone else who can “be a better mother” – I hurt to think about this. I cry hearing women talk about this moment. Whether I believe in or would seek an abortion should not be the basis for a law for the entire state, the decision for an abortion is a very personal and difficult decision with a lot of factors (factors law makers, you, and I cannot know before passing a law). Also having never been faced with this choice, I can't say I don't want that choice to be mine if I'm ever faced with it – I'm pro life and pro choice. As a therapist, I have to confront my own personal beliefs when I talk with a client who fully knows they were an unwanted pregnancy – that their mother's have said they wish they could have chosen an abortion. It's painful! Unwanted children often experience neglect, abuse, malnutrition, lack of medical care, developmental delays, and developmental difficulties. I also can't let my personal morals, and beliefs on the table with my client; my “stuff” is not (cannot be) in the room when I have a client in the room.
I'm also sickened by the reality that the same people who fight for “pro-life” stance, fight for all conceived children to be born… are the same people who blocked the expansion of Medicaid that would care for these same children, that continuously cut funding for SNAP (food stamps), and TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families). These programs Medicare, SNAP, TANF in many cases are the only way children and families living in poverty survive. It is unfathomable how the same people who so strongly debate the “sanctity of life” in abortion debates are the same people who take more and more away from those same children once they are out of the womb. Did you know that Nationally, 91 percent of the program’s beneficiaries are children, elderly, disabled, or members of working households; and that only 62% of eligible Texas families are receiving nutrition assistance which means more than 2 million of our fellow Texans are going with out the help they need every month.
Texas is among the nation’s leaders in child poverty, teen pregnancy, dropout rates and illiteracy. We’re also among the nation’s lowest-spending states on child poverty, teen pregnancy, dropout rates and illiteracy.
Tiffany is working on her Master’s of Science in Social Work at the University of Texas – Austin. Tiffany is an avid babysitter, much like Mary Poppins, and could be a professional bridesmaid. Tiffany loves Austin, social work, reading, and spending evenings with a drink by the fire with friends.
Tiffany, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. I am a Nurse-Midwife and work with women and families on a daily basis who deal with so many of the issues you have mentioned. I appreciate your willingness to have the discussion even when you don’t have all of the answers figured out. It’s been one of my greatest challenges to reconcile my values and beliefs with what that of the women and families I serve. THANK YOU!!
Thanks so much for such a thoughtful, measured article. It certainly adds to the debate, and your humility is certainly commendable and something everyone should try to emulate. I loved your points about how many people hold a pro-life stance, but then refuse benefits to these children once they enter the world. However, as a Christian, there are certain points in your article that I disagree with. First is this: If there truly is a God (and I personally think there is), then there is no such thing as “your morals” or “my morals”. There simply is what is moral or right, and what is not. To say that abortion is or isn’t right is not to say that “my morals” are better then yours. It’s making a claim that something falls inside or outside of the way things are created to be. To make this debate about “my morals” or “theirs”, simply isn’t Biblical, and clouds the discussion. Secondly, it is certainly a HUGE concern that women will resort to more dangerous methods to terminate a pregnancy. It is truly heartbreaking to think of a women in such desperation that she risks hurting herself in such a dangerous way. However, this does not seem to be a valid reason to want to keep abortion practices the way they are. Yes, some women would still seek abortions, but if we believe that abortion is morally wrong, then just because some people would still do it does not mean that we should continue to support it or help it. A (admittedly rough) example may help me explain: If people will steal no matter what, it does not mean that we should make stealing easier, or less dangerous. Even if people are stealing out of desperation and poverty. We should help them find food, help them find jobs, help them heal emotionally and spiritually, and love them! But we should not enable them to do something that (I believe) hurts them in the long run, namely steal. It is the same way with abortion. If we believe that abortion is not what God intended, then the most loving thing we could possibly do for people is to help them not have an abortion. Because ultimately, God is love. And He designed rules to help us have the most fulfilled life possible. If we believe this and believe that abortion is outside of His design (which I do), then it would actually be extremely unloving to women to support this behavior. Thanks for taking the time to read this (probably too long) post. You candor and humility are refreshing, and I hope what I wrote adds to this discussion as you have.
Tiffany, thank you for taking the time to write a very well thought out article that articulates what you believe. I think it speaks volumes to the space that Jamie has created here that you feel comfortable enough to share your thoughts even though you know that many will disagree with them.
Saying all of that, I do disagree with you. Sam Drew summed up beautifully most of what I believe. It’s not at all about “my beliefs” vs “their beliefs”, it is fully about what God says is right and wrong. His laws are right no matter what the situation and no matter what values anyone else holds.
I would be interested to know if you’ve had a chance to have discussions with women who are in abortion recovery. Have you learned about how the abortion has affected their life since then? Have you been told that if they had been showed an ultrasound before their abortion that they would have chosen life? How they didn’t realize that their baby wasn’t just a mass of cells, how they didn’t really realize what they were doing? How they sit at their table with their children and cry missing the child they chose to abort? I have. I am one of those women. I was never told the truth of what I was doing. I didn’t know. I thought the baby was just a mass of cells. It wasn’t until I had my four other children and saw that first ultrasound and realized what I had done. I miss my child every single day. Every day.
If we really believe in God’s sovereignty then we have to believe Him when He says, “The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” Deuteronomy 32:4. He is unchanging and what He says is perfect and just is also unchanging. As a believer in God we cannot say His statutes do not apply to others. They do apply because ultimately those who do not believe will be judged according to His statutes. If we dismiss His laws on earth for those who don’t believe simply because they have different values we are doing them a disservice because we are not pointing them to the truth of a God who is sovereign over their lives as well.
Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was a hard blog to write for many obvious reasons mainly that I still don’t know all the answers.
Sam, Thanks so much for your comment. This is still an issue I am very new to even thinking about, and maybe I haven’t used all of the write phrases and words. Thanks for helping to point those out to me, for me to further think through and examine. I think the point I was attempting to make, and don’t think I did well is thinking from the perspective of if I a believer lived in a country that was majority not my belief, no matter how true I believe my faith and my God to be – what does that look like from a governmental, legislative approach. I think I’m still fleshing out how to say what I’m aiming at and hopefully I’ll get there one day.
And honestly my biggest struggle with the Pro-life/Pro-choice debate is that the issue is so much larger than that, it relates to the entire system of our society and to our sex education curriculum, our views and shaming surrounding rape and incest, realities of poverty, and the societal views of poverty and governmental programs aiming at aiding those living in poverty.
Thank you for your kind comments, blogging and writing for non-academic purposes is really outside my comfort zone but definitely something I need to more often. The more conversations, comments, discussions I have the more I flesh out into words things, I’m not quite able to articulate well.
Heather, Thank you for your kind comments. I was really nervous to see today come knowing my blog was posting, but so grateful for the space Jamie has here and fantastic readers who are willing to be a part of that space.
My heart truly breaks at the pain, that I can’t even imagine, you’ve been through related to abortion. I’m tearing up just to think about it. I try to be really aware of all you’ve said and talk through that with my clients, to talk through the developmental point they are at in their pregnancy. Hearing this snippet of your story, of which I am so grateful, helps me to better have those conversations with my clients prior to their choices. I recently led a group of clients where we talked about a lot of these same issues, I had women who had had abortions, and women who were pregnant considering abortion and every space in between. It was one of the hardest and best group conversations, I’ve ever been a part of … and I mostly let their experiences and emotions lead the group. its hard, and I think if you read my comment on Sam’s comment I didn’t word everything in my post the best I could have but I also think the issue is systemic and covers so many areas of our culture and society.
On a another note, I recently had a conversation with a fellow social worker who grew up in a Christian home, her father was a pastor. Skipping a lot of details, she became pregnant as a teenager and she lost her child due to miscarriage but due her non-married status and timing of her miscarriage, the church around her assumed she was lying and that she’d had an abortion. The treatment she received from believers had me in tears, and she is no longer a believer. She’s a person I am trying to minister to and show that not every believer will behave the way those people did. it’s heart breaking, and has also I think lead to parts of my beliefs on the subject today. Saying something is wrong, banning it and the shame surrounding all of that buts a shadow on God’s love and forgiveness and grace. I think saying all that just points to where I am currently in pointing people to Christ and a God who is sovereign over their lives as well as my own; planting loving seeds that will hopefully blossom one day in faith.
Thank you again for your comment, and gentleness in a subject you feel much more personally than I do. I was very nervous for today’s post to go up, but am thankful for the opportunity and then compassionate honestly all have displayed.
Hi Tiffany, thanks so much for your post. I read it the other day, and came back to it this afternoon, because although I may disagree with you, I want to encourage you as you continue to work through this important issue. I think the people who have commented here already have spoken with much wisdom. You are so right that the problem is systemic, with far-reaching implications. But I’m not sure that unwanted or unplanned pregnancies are the source of those problems, or that terminating them is the solution.
Keep encouraging the women you counsel and loving them well. Continue to have conversations, and to articulate what you believe. Above all, seek Jesus, knowing that truth and love are inextricably connected.
Jaime, thanks so much for your blog. I can’t remember how I found it, but I enjoy reading it often.
Tiffany thank you for your thoughts and discussion from a very important viewpoint. I am a speech pathologist in Houston and work with all Medicaid families and truly find it a blessing to serve this population. However, the struggles and poverty my clients live in everyday are real and it is a tough reality. Our clinic is blessed to have a social worker to work with our families and assist, but I know these are real struggles our young moms face. Thanks for being so vulnerable.