A pair of Scottish businessmen found themselves alone late at night in Houston’s elite Memorial neighborhood. They went knocking on doors hoping someone would let them call a cab. Peter De Vries, age 28, was shot and killed by a homeowner through a locked door. To the disgust of De Vries’ family and the British government, no charges were filed because no law had been broken.
Welcome to the “Friendship” state. Get the hell off my lawn.
Life is cheap in Texas, yet the state remains a passionate bulwark of the “pro-life” movement. This apparent contradiction goes a long way toward revealing the values that matter most in pro-life politics.
Texas goes to spectacular lengths to protect a private right to kill. The state’s laws on lawful killing are premised on the killer’s perception of the circumstances, leaving them open to an almost unlimited range of subjective interpretation. In Texas:
You can confront and kill an unarmed car thief.
You can kill someone who is invading your neighbor’s home.
You can kill someone whom you believe has burglarized someone else’s home even after they have fled the scene.
You can kill someone for driving on your property without permission.
You can kill someone for no discernible reason and not even get arrested.
Life is cheap in Texas.
The right to initiate lethal force to resolve a remarkably broad range of situations is deeply enshrined in Texans’ idea of their basic rights, but the private right to kill is just the tip of the death-loving iceberg.
If Texas was a country, it would rank 8th in the world in the annual number of government executions, keeping company with such pro-life nations as North Korea, Iraq, and Yemen. The state recently racked up its 500th execution since the Supreme Court reopened the practice in 1976. Half of those executions have occurred under the passionately pro-life Governor Rick Perry.
Executions may be an awkward way to measure respect for life since all of the people executed by the state (well, nearly all) were guilty of a serious crime. Unfortunately, Texas finds innumerable other ways to express its tepid regard for humanity.
Unborn life may be precious, but once you’re born in Texas don’t expect to see a lot of compassion. Texas has the country’s fifth-highest rate of child poverty, a figure that has been steadily rising across the course of Gov. Perry’s economic miracle years.
Texas’ pro-life enthusiasm somehow fails to prevent the state from leading the nation in toxic emissions, and the percentage of uninsured adults and children. It is perhaps unsurprising that Texas has the lowest rate of voter participation in the country as well as the lowest voter participation by women. Faced with one of the country’s highest poverty rates, Texas spends less on its citizens per capita than any other state besides Nevada.
Every year about 12 American women die from complications of an abortion and about 45,000 Americans die as a consequence of being uninsured. The Texas Legislature, in its passion for life, has successfully placed tighter “safety” constraints on abortion clinics while fighting tooth and nail to prevent an expansion of Medicaid.
Life is cheap in Texas, so why is the Legislature so enthusiastic about pro-life politics?
A broad range of policies are available that reliably reduce the incidence of abortion. Ready access to contraception, honest sex ed, and strong protection from domestic abuse are enormously successful not only in preserving lives, but improving them. When women have greater freedom over their own lives and health, abortion is increasingly rare. And that’s the problem.
For all its talk about the horrors of abortion, the pro-life movement is strangely opposed to these commonsense, humane measures in almost every scenario. Restrictive abortion laws offer opportunities to constrain women’s behavior in ways that education and contraception do not. The pro-life movement takes little interest in preventing abortion if it costs them their chance to dictate women’s sexual choices.
Pro-life political success in a kill-happy place like Texas reveals the values that matter most to the movement. The pro-life movement poses no threat to the state’s vast private right to kill or its disregard for children and families post-birth. “Life” in this case is just a brand, not a value. Texas is not pro-life and neither is the pro-life movement.
If you’re planning a trip to Texas, do not be misled by all the recent public chatter about the sanctity of human life. Knock on the wrong door and a local homeowner may resort to 2nd Amendment remedies. Pro-life politics is making it tough to get an abortion in Texas, but buying a gun is always easy.