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Guns but No Roses

September 6, 2021 — 5 Comments

The Lone Star State, Texas to those maybe not cognizant of the various monikers given American states, reached a nadir on Wednesday, 1st August 2021 with not just the suppression of voting rights but the introduction of two new laws:

From Financial Times – Friday edition

~ House Bill 1927 – constitutional carry which means anyone over the age of 21, without license or training or even a background check may openly carry a handgun. The Wild West has returned. There is a proviso – that any person convicted of a felony, assault, terrorist threat or domestic violence is not covered by this new law. The question begging to be asked is, if there is no background check how does a vendor know if a potential buyer is a felon?

~ Senate Bill 8 – an abortion ban from six weeks, which means a woman, who may not even know she is pregnant, may not terminate a pregnancy even in cases of rape or incest. The law stipulates a fetal heartbeat is heard at six weeks, however doctors say, and lawyers agree, embryos do not have a heart at such an early developmental stage. A return to backstreet butchers. Theoretically a man convicted of domestic violence could threaten a woman with a gun bought without a background check, rape and impregnate her, and that woman would have no medical redress. 

Even more concerning is the gutless manner in which this law has been written, encouraging everyday like-minded citizens with an incentive of $10,000 to sue any person who ‘aids or abets’ an abortion. This includes a concerned relative who might have provided funds, a cab driver taking a girl or woman to a clinic and so the list goes on. A person may sue even if there is no connection to the girl or woman having an abortion, or the provider. The Supreme Court, weighted heavy on the Republican side has, in an unsigned ruling allowed the law to go into effect. President Biden is not impressed.

As far as shootings are concerned, there has been a 14% increase in Texas this year – that’s not including suicides. That increase translates into approximately 3,200 shootings. How in God’s name are the police, who are against this constitutional carry law, meant to know who is the good guy and who is the madman? An astounding 59% of Texans, including law enforcement officers, oppose this Bill, however 56% of Republicans support it. The public, it seems, is becoming inured to shootings, considered mass when there are four or more victims – think Odessa and El Paso where 30 people were murdered and dozens wounded.

It is a tragic fact that whilst the international light is shone on the horrors of rape in places like India, which whilst developing is still considered a Third World Country, there are still people in the so-called developed world who feel the need to force themselves on a girl or woman, and sometimes a man. Too many rapes go unreported, often due to the ineptitude and lack of empathy shown by the authorities, and fear of repercussions.

But here’s the thing. India has, under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, allowed abortion in some instances since 1973 (the same year as Roe v Wade) – and in 2003 that Act was amended to give women access to safe and legal abortion services. If India, a culturally misogynistic society, can pass such legislation why are there swathes of America, now lead by Texas, who hold such antediluvian and ruthless views on women’s health – both physical and mental?

I have lived in the disunited states since 1997 and, whilst I shook my head at some of the 19th century views held by some in the 21st century, and railed at the lack of gun legislation and the fear-mongering that came with every attempt to curb loopholes in existing gun laws, I respected the Second Amendment even if it had been ratified in 1791 by a group of privileged white men.

However, with the emergence of Trumpism and the splintering of any level of civility, a break down in society still fomented by the former president, those with radical right-wing views have emerged as a vociferous and often violent cabal of men eager to push women back into the dark ages. But what, to my mind, is even more disturbing are the number of women keen to be put back into the kitchens, both metaphorically and literally in the case of seeking an abortion.

Abortion is not, and I doubt has ever been, a decision taken lightly by many women and to suggest it is a form of birth control is disingenuous and offensive. Particularly when taken in conjunction with the lack of sensible and timely sex education in a state that promulgates the teaching of abstinence. 

Here’s a shocking fact gleaned from the World Health Organization. As maternal mortality declines around the world – even in India – it has been increasing in the United States since 2000. America has the distinction of ranking alongside the Dominican Republic as being one of two countries with that tragic statistic.

It makes me wonder if the quartet of middle-aged, white men who lead the Lone Star State – Abbott, Patrick, Paxton and Cruz – spurred on by deeply conservative voices, have between them an ounce of compassion let alone a modicum of intelligence, native or otherwise. I can’t help but wonder if these politicians, and this might shock some readers, are so focused on their own self-aggrandizement and political future that they have lost sight of what is right: the right to bear arms being sensibly regulated; the right for women to be responsible for their bodies, their health and well-being. With this new law and the closure of women’s clinics will come even less access to women’s basic health – pap smears, mammograms, birth control.

Guns rule and the yellow rose of Texas has lost its bloom!

There is a strident section of US society vehemently against abortion. They tend to be right leaning, conservative Christians. This piece though is not so much about the splutterings of people denouncing the right for women to choose whether to have a baby or not, no matter what the circumstances of conception. It is about those same people shaming teenage girls who have become pregnant.

To have or not to have a baby. Either choice is brave. More often than not the boy man involved has negligible responsibility for the outcome of their actions. His life will continue uninterrupted. But for the young woman it is a decision that will impact the rest of her life, regardless of which decision she makes.

There are of course many of those against abortion who do not fall into the category of sanctimonious prig. Who support their daughters, their nieces, their young congregants through a confused and difficult time. Who respond to a perceived shame, which can taunt and haunt the girl, with calm kindness. Who offer practical as well as spiritual guidance. I might not agree with their stance on abortion but I admire their compassion, resilience and continued beliefs.

No, my contempt is reserved for those, of any faith, who condemn a girl whether pregnant through carelessness or callousness, who decides to keep the baby then is rejected by those very same so-called believers. Adults who turn their back, who refuse to accept any responsibility for the situation. And many of these people, whether individually or through institutions and churches, do have a responsibility. I rarely advocate others taking the blame for circumstances in which we might find ourselves. But in instances like this, blame can almost certainly be spread around.

What has riled me into writing? It is the report in the New York Times about a young woman of 18 not allowed to graduate from her Christian academy with her peers, because she is pregnant. She has also been ejected from her role on the student council. She is being supported by her parents, one of whom was on the school board but has since resigned in disgust at their stand. She is also being supported by the anti-abortion group, Students for Life, whose president was quoted as saying, “There has got to be a way to treat a young woman who becomes pregnant in a graceful and loving way.”

I was curious about the syllabus of the Heritage Academy, the school in question, and so tried a number of times to get an answer to a simple question. “Does your school teach sex education?” An answer was not forthcoming and my calls and messages have not been returned, which can only lead me to believe the response would have been ‘no’.

The Heritage Academy website proudly trumpets, “Our intent is to honor Christ in every facet of our program.” They demand a signed pledge from parents to that very effect and, here’s the kicker, “….to resolve problems in accord with Scriptural principles (Matthew 18:15), avoiding gossip and contentiousness (Ephesians 4:31; Proverbs 17:14), to be forgiving (Colossians 3:13)….”

I had to look that up and in my bible it reads, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also (do) ye.”

When will the communities who espouse such rigid strictures – that of ignorance and abstinence – and enmesh their children and charges in them, learn the world is not black and white? To recognize hypocrisy is an ugly and futile endeavour. There are no winners. Least of all the young women who might find themselves pregnant, and often alone and ostracized by the very people who are meant to be nurturing them.

Students of Heritage Academy also have to sign a pledge. It is a high-minded document – I have no idea if it is legally binding – which demands “guarding my mind against immorality, impurity, rebellion, selfishness, carnality and violence”. Do students entering in lower grades even know what half those words mean?

Demanding abstinence or, as some coyly call it, chastity, is an ineffective, idealistic form of birth control. It is a fact of teenage life – hormones rage. Missteps and mistakes are sometimes made. They are though less likely to be made if comprehensive sex education is given at the appropriate times, in the appropriate manner and to both boys and girls.

We all have a right to our own opinions, but if that view blinds us into turning our backs on pregnant girls, then shame on us all. As always there is a truth to axioms. It takes a village to raise a child.

It takes two to make a baby, it should take at least two to teach it to tango.