A local Texas news report this week told the abysmal story of women allegedly looking for abortion options at flea markets. The purported reason? A Texas law passed this year that protects some unborn children in the latest stages of pregnancy from a brutal abortion that’s not safe for women. This has been presented as an attack on women’s rights, and Wendy Davis, now a candidate for governor, who famously filibustered against the law, as a heroine for this cause. And it’s not just women’s rights she claims the mantle of: She has recently described herself as “pro-life.” The real cause here is not women’s rights, however, but a culture of death, a culture that cries out for better options. Texas Right to Life fights for those better options. Emily Horne, a legislative assistant at Texas Right to Life, talks to NRO about the situation in Texas.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What was your reaction when you heard that Wendy Davis had called herself “pro-life”?
EMILY HORNE: Some combination of “She said what?” and “You’ve got to be kidding me” and “Did anyone let her know she got a 0 percent on our scorecard?” Frankly, her comment is surprising, because she stood for eleven hours on the Texas Senate floor defending late abortions and attacked commonsense medical standards for the abortion industry. But she has absolutely run from the very mention of abortion since she rose to stardom by advocating for late elective abortions in her attempted filibuster.
LOPEZ: What does it mean to you to be “pro-life”?
HORNE: To be truly pro-life, you must care about all innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death. This includes not only help for women facing an abortion decision, but also help for those in hospitals who are being denied life-saving treatment, or those in the disability community being told that their lives have no worth or value. As the cultural regard for life diminishes, our job as pro-lifers becomes more all-encompassing and more urgent.
LOPEZ: How did you get into this work? What has been the most important lesson you have learned from it?
HORNE: I’ve been interested in this cause from a young age. I’m the fourth in a family of nine children; my parents led by example and taught us respect and regard for all life. The most important lesson I’ve learned through working in this cause has been the constant need for compassion in this movement. The pro-life movement is one of love, and true change cannot be accomplished without it. The mothers facing an abortion decision aren’t there because they want to be, and you never know how much impact you may have with a kind word or listening ear.
LOPEZ: Did Davis do a little service, though? “Pro-life” has become too associated with political sides to be a worthwhile term in shedding light on what’s going on in America today under the guise of women’s health and freedom (or privacy, as Roe had it)?
HORNE: I think the fact that she tries to claim the term “pro-life” and the fact that the other side hates to use it to describe us, instead using the term “anti-abortion,” proves what an impact language can have on this debate. They hate conceding the term “pro-life” because one can hardly want to be termed “anti-life.” Notice they also refuse the flipside of their own terminology of “anti-abortion,” and cry foul when they are called “pro-abortion.” Even Senator Davis tried to deny that she had been advocating for abortion in her remarks yesterday, and this proves that even those advocating for the procedure are hardly comfortable with it. And that speaks volumes for our cause.
LOPEZ: What’s your counter to the claim that Davis is “pro-life”?
HORNE: Abortion, and fighting for the right to kill the unborn, is what made Senator Davis famous. It’s ironic she’s shying away from the image of an abortion supporter now, but she has an abysmal voting record that clearly indicates her positions. She’s always received zeroes on Texas Right to Life’s scorecards for voting against protections not only for the unborn but also the ill and elderly in Texas hospitals. She voted for Senate Bill 303 in the 2013 regular session, to expand the ability of doctors to remove life-sustaining treatment from a patient against his or her wishes. The bill Senator Davis filibustered this summer protected babies from abortion at the point at which they could feel pain — and still she did not prove to be “pro-life,” not even halfway through the pregnancy. It’s truly sad that those whose lives she chooses to ignore are the very ones who have no voice, and no defense.
LOPEZ: What’s your advice to people who oppose abortion, when they talk about it, particularly in the political realm, but also at the Christmas party?
HORNE: What I like to do most when talking to people who are pro-choice is to first ask them to explain their position and let them talk, uninterrupted. No one likes or needs to get into a shouting match, and if you let someone on the other side explain their entire position, they are more willing to let you ask questions or point out some of the holes in their logic. If you’ve listened quietly, more often then not, they will give you a great opportunity to explain your views that come from a deep respect for life. This is where the compassion element comes in as well — no matter what venue you’re talking about abortion in, let your statements reflect a compassion for those facing the decision, those who have made that decision, and also the unborn children facing a tragic (and sometimes painful) death without our help.
LOPEZ: Have you seen increased interest in your work, given all the controversies around Davis and the law that subsequently passed this year?
HORNE: We have seen a huge spike in interest in the pro-life work being done in Texas as a result of the filibuster and subsequent passage of the law. The filibuster was a huge wakeup call to the people of Texas who were already pro-life and realized they needed to become more involved in our work.
LOPEZ: Do you feel any qualms about all these clinics that are closing in Texas on account of that law? They do provide services other than abortion, after all.
HORNE: Abortion is not health care; it is the tragic end to a defenseless, voiceless unborn child. If Hitler had started German health initiatives benefiting the German people, that would not have made his concentration camps any less evil. Texas has taken great strides to ensure that actual health services that might be found at abortion clinics are provided at abortion-free centers, through the Texas Women’s Health Program — so the need for vital health services is fully addressed.
HORNE: Texas funds a fantastic program called Alternatives to Abortion, which provides support and resources for pregnant women and through the first year of their child’s life. The program funding is increased with every budget, and we hope that that that will continue as Texas women continue to need support.
LOPEZ: Do you think Wendy Davis could wind up governor? What worries you about that prospect?
HORNE: I think Texas has shown a remarkable preference for Attorney General Greg Abbott — not only does his funding come from donors in the state, but a recent Democratic-leaning polling group put him 15 points ahead of Davis. Obviously the thought of Governor Davis is alarming: Her record on life proves she would veto any pro-life measure that came to her desk and I have no doubt she would do all she could to promote abortion expansion in Texas. Fortunately, we still have strong pro-life majorities in the Texas House and Senate, so passing anything that expanded abortion would prove very difficult. Her campaign is one we take seriously, and the horrors of having a Governor Davis is giving us renewed vigor as we expose her record and support Greg Abbott — who, as attorney general, defended the sonogram law and is currently fighting to see HB 2, the new law, properly enforced.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.