Thank God for Rowdy Women
I was not at the Texas State Capitol last Tuesday night while State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) was conducting her epic filibuster against Senate Bill 5. I was at Party City, helping my girlfriend Jeanie pick out Strawberry Shortcake items for her daughter Sophie's upcoming fourth birthday, taking her girls to the bathroom, and wrangling a broom, ladder, and member of staff to help rescue Rory, her daughter Lily's beanbag lion, after he had been flung skyward and snagged on some architecture fifteen feet off the ground.
While Senator Davis was speaking in front of a gallery packed with observers and the hashtag #standwithwendy was trending nationally on Twitter, I was giving the girls their bath while Jeanie cleaned the dinner dishes. While Senator Davis was swaying with fatigue, and 100,000 people were watching the livefeed of the Senate Chamber on YouTube, I was reading bedtime stories about animals playing practical jokes on each other, brushing teeth, and saying prayers with the girls while Jeanie took Fletcher the ancient beagle out for his final potty break of the night.
Many nights, Jeanie would be doing all these things all by herself. A single mom like Senator Davis, she knows the joys and the difficulties of that reality, and even with my help, even by the time we had gotten the kids in bed and talked through plans for the rest of the week, she still had things to do.
Too many things, in fact, to follow the debate at the Capitol, although as a former TV reporter, she desperately wanted to.
Jeanie loves her girls. I do, too. I hope someday to claim them all.
And I hope to do so in a state where a woman's legal right to a safe and accessible abortion is still intact, where women who are poor or isolated are not treated as second-class citizens.
Our friend Tricia Mitchell, a mother and working musician who attends St. David's Episcopal Church with us, was at the Capitol, and she summed up what many of us feel, female and male alike. The opposition to SB 5 was not simply about keeping abortion a viable option; those of us who support choice for women do not like abortion. As Tricia posted, who does?
I'm not getting into this because I want my daughter to grow up and have an abortion. I'm getting into it because I don't want her to grow up and exist in a world where it is assumed that her voice doesn't matter. Just no.
If you don't like abortion (and who does?), don't have one. Work to educate and empower girls and women. Work to promote research to prevent congenital defects. Work to support mothers in fulfilling their most important of roles. Work to end rape.
Like many progressive Christians, I am a registered Democrat, which means that for decades I have been a voting, contributing, and sometimes volunteering member of a party supporting choice for women. In recent years, I have developed growing theological reservations about abortion on demand, and I have come to believe, as Bill Clinton said years ago, that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, as rare as we can make it.
But as much as I dislike abortion, I can see that there are times abortion may be the better or only option to protect the health of the mother, or to prevent the mother from having to shoulder an insuperable burden. SB 5, while packaged by its supporters as a bill protecting women's health, does the precise opposite. SB 5 is a sweeping omnibus bill that would have closed down all but five women's health centers in the state of Texas offering abortions, and would have prohibited all abortions after twenty weeks, although sometimes lethal congenital defects aren't revealed into well into the second trimester.
Greg Garrett is (according to BBC Radio) one of America's leading voices on religion and culture. He is the author or co-author of over twenty books of fiction, theology, cultural criticism, and spiritual autobiography. His most recent books are The Prodigal, written with the legendary Brennan Manning, Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination, and My Church Is Not Dying: Episcopalians in the 21st Century. A contributor to Patheos since 2010, Greg also writes for the Huffington Post, Salon.com, OnFaith, The Tablet, Reform, and other web and print publications in the US and UK.