I just transcribed Bill White’s responses to the two abortion-related questions from the February 8th debate. Their questions were driven, I believe, in part by the GOP primary proposition #5—should women be required to view a sonogram before having an abortion.
I did not transcribe Farouk Shami’s responses in their entirety because all I need to know is summed up in the fact that he believes women should have an absolute right to choose abortion for only 60 to 90 days. Since Shami supports greater restrictions on the right to choose abortion than currently exist, the nuances of his position are irrelevant to me.
To the first question, would you favor increasing or reducing current restrictions on abortion, Bill White answered:
I think we should leave the current laws the same. It’s important that we leave important life decisions to the citizens of this state, and that’s one. As you know, the Supreme Court has made the law in this area, and I think what’s really important is we do what we can in this state to cut the rate of teen pregnancies.
Debate 101: White answers the question, then switches gears to address a less controversial topic. Only when abortion is the topic can teen pregnancy be considered less controversial! He continues:
Right now, Texas is among the last in the nation–or, you could say the first–on the percentage of our teenagers who get pregnant. We need to do something about that.
White goes on to talk about programs that support teen mothers and the need to remove barriers to adoption. The moderator, still trying to get someone to actually say something politically risky, goes on to ask a second question. That is, he wants to get White on record about the sonogram bill so that can be a talking point once we see how the GOP primary prop comes out.
The legislature may reconsider a bill that failed in the last session requiring doctors and clinics to display ultrasound images of a woman’s fetus before she can have an abortion. Would you veto that if it crossed your desk?
To which Bill White answers:
In general, look, Dave, I’m not gonna tell you right now without consultation with the legislature what is or is not in a bill and what I will or will not veto. That’s not leadership. I have to work with the legislative branch of government. But I will tell you this, that I will work hard to make sure that our legislative sessions are not hijacked by the wedge issues which are not the things most prominent on the minds of Texans. Texans need jobs, they need job training, they need to get their moneys’ worth out of the tax dollars we send to Austin. They’re worried about how they’re gonna get from where they live to where they work in a state where traffic congestion is getting worse. And I do not think that leadership means getting diverted into the so-called hot button issues that divide Texans. We need to do more to unite the citizens of this state.
Well, there you go. Dave. Shami gives a mostly non-responsive answer to the same question, then Dave gives up and moves onto gay marriage.
I know that Bill White answered these questions carefully in an attempt to alienate the fewest number of undecided voters. I totally get that politicians have to campaign that way.
But I resent the suggestion that caring about abortion rights somehow sets me up in opposition to those who care about jobs or taxes or traffic.
I think leadership means answering tough questions. Here’s what I’d like just one candidate to say when asked about the ultrasound or sonogram requirement:
I’d veto that bill, Dave, and here’s why.
- First, I don’t think we should legislate the techniques doctors should or should not follow during a medical procedure. Period. That isn’t the business of government.
- Second, requiring an ultrasound adds cost to the procedure, and I believe government should be doing everything possible to reduce medical costs, not increase them.
- Third, and most importantly, I trust and respect women. Showing a woman who has chosen to terminate a pregnancy an ultrasound serves no purpose other than trying to make her feel guilty or change her mind. That isn’t what government exists to do, and I won’t be a part of shaming women for making legal, personal choices about their health, bodies, families, and lives.
- Fourth and finally, bills like this are an end-run around the right to legal abortion, and I do not support end-runs around the law. I would tell the legislature to stop wasting Texans’ time and money by attempting to subvert the constitution, and I would veto that bill.
I sometimes fear the only way I’m ever going to hear a candidate say something like this is if I run for office. And really, that seems pretty extreme, but don’t you think for a second I wouldn’t do it if things got bad enough. That’s a promise and a threat.