Houston Chronicle Blog, March 16, 2012 by Rev. Ellen Cooper-Davis
Dear Governor Perry,
I imagine that your schedule must be extremely busy, and I suppose you don’t generally have time to read the various publications of this great state of Texas over coffee. So I will draw your attention to one article in particular that moved me to tears and left me seething with rage. In today’s Texas Observer, there is a compelling story of a woman who, because of your legislation, was put through intense psychological trauma and forced against her will to be subjected to this trauma. As an American citizen who cherishes individual liberties, as I imagine you do, and as a Pastor, entrusted with the care of my brothers and sisters in Love, and as a woman, who is deeply aware that our status as second-class citizens is not all that far in the past, I’m outraged beyond my ability to stay silent.
You, Governor Perry, have often been vocal on issues related to government telling you what you can and cannot do. As I recall, you don’t want the government to tell anyone that they must have healthcare. I can only assume from that stance that you fervently believe that issues relating to an individual’s care of their own body are for the individual, not the government, to make decisions about. Yet, when it comes to terminating a pregnancy, your legislature demands that women must be subjected to an ultrasound (through vaginal penetration, in many cases) and must hear a doctor describe the fetus at its current stage of development. It doesn’t matter if the woman was raped or if the fetus is malformed. You force her to know, even if she wishes not to.
Equally puzzling to me, Governor, is the fact that you have been outspoken about your support for religious liberty, and the right of individual conscience. And yet, your legislation again tramples on an individual’s conscience as it forces doctors and nurses to subject their patients to these procedures even if it is against the patient’s will. Doctors whose faith (or lack thereof) pose no opposition, or even hold support for a woman’s sovereignty over her own body and choices must subvert their convictions in the face of this legislation.
You claim to be part of an “army” devoted to Life, and yet you advocate for and sign legislation that actively misinforms women and causes them psychological pain. Pain and misinformation are not instruments of Life, certainly not of the love that should stem from your faith, they are instruments of death. Your faith exhorts you to be a follower of Jesus Christ; to provide for the sick and the needy and the outcast, and to love all people. And yet your policies tell a very different story. Women and men who seek basic reproductive health services have been disenfranchised by your policies. Women making the excruciatingly complicated and difficult choice to end a pregnancy are subjected to cruel and shaming “requirements.” It is interesting to me that the men who impregnated them are not also subjected to a shaming lecture and misleading pamphlet. Although given your heartfelt devotion to abstinence-only sex education, I can certainly understand if you and your policymakers are a little confused about how pregnancies happen.
You say you want to eliminate abortions, and yet you put up increasing obstacles to the availability of birth control and you insist on keeping young people ignorant on the subject of human sexuality.You say all children have a right to life, and yet by denying the poorest women access to basic health services, you are placing a strain on their ability to care adequately for the children they may already have. Around the world, it is well documented that lifting a people out of poverty, raising their standard of life and their dignity, depends on the empowerment of women, and on access to contraceptive and women’s health services. Yet you, and your political friends, would see us as chattel, unable to be trusted to make our own decisions, unenlightened and shameful.
You would be wrong.
Mr. Perry, I know I am not alone in speaking out: you have gone too far in stripping women of their dignity and their sovereignty. We are not pawns to be pushed around by male elites who would seek to control our bodies or our freedoms through draconian and damaging policies. We are women. We are mothers, sisters, grandmothers, daughters, nieces and aunts. We are pastors, prophets, homemakers, businesswomen, artists, teachers, and entrepreneurs. It is our mothers and grandmothers who fought for us to be recognized as worthy, equal, whole. It is we who will not relinquish that, and who will fight-on.
And as all darkness must be named in order to diminish its power over our lives, we name this:
You are no brave crusader. You are a bully, Mr. Governor. And we will not be silenced.
May God send more light, more love into your life,
Rev. Ellen Cooper-Davis