When I was growing up, I had a considerable amount of contact with my aunts, uncles and cousins. We lived not far apart, and my first cousins were more like my brothers and sisters than cousins. Growing into my teen years, I became more aware of my religion mainly due to the fact my mother, being a strict Baptist, had attempted to raise me as such. Because of differences in the denominations of many of my relatives, many of our visits would erupt into a great theological argument. I had an aunt who for more than 50 years was a preacher in one Christian denomination, and an uncle who was a part-time preacher in a different Christian denomination. Neither were Baptist. They were both convinced that members of their particular faith were the only ones who would be accepted into Heaven. While the religious debates probably gave me a better insight into my own beliefs and teachings, I never could figure out whether or not they were right. I always wondered how they knew their people were the only ones due for salvation.
The point is that, thankfully in America, there are various religious beliefs, many very strongly held - many radical. Additionally, there are those individuals who have no religious beliefs. This leads me to the current debate about abortion and allowing women in America access to contraceptives.
I have my own inner conflicts about abortion. Personally, I do not believe, if I were a woman, I could ever bring myself to have an abortion. I certainly would not condone it or recommend it for any of my daughters. On the other hand, I have a hard time placing a religious belief into law, and thereby imposing one’s religious belief on others with different theological views or on those with no religion at all. I’ve been told by some very smart women that my attitude and that of many men would change were we saddled with the burden of bearing children.
However, through the years, one of my observations focuses on the hypocrisy of many of my so-called “good Christian” friends. It seems many of those most adamant about protecting the unborn seem completely unconcerned about how we treat the already born. Evidence of their hypocrisy in this regard is seen throughout the policies and laws established by our state legislature.
It is widely reported there are hundreds, if not thousands, of abused children, many of whom lose their lives due this abuse. It has been hard for me to fathom why a legislature made up of men and women who have such a reverence for life have never in the past 50 years adequately funded Child Protective Services with professionals. Child Protective Services remains, as it has for many years, severely under-funded. The number of caseworkers assigned to ferret out abuse of children and protect them has been completely inadequate to address the need for as long as I can remember.
The Texas policy and support for children’s health is a matter over which all Texans should hang their heads in shame. At last count, there were over half a million Texas children lacking adequate medical insurance or access to decent health care. Texas, if not the leader, is among the leading states of the union in teenage pregnancies and high school dropouts among teenage girls. In spite of this fact, our governor and our current Republican Legislature advocate doing away with Planned Parenthood and rail against any health course in our public schools that would inform children of the hazards leading to out-of-wedlock children. They seem to believe if you don’t talk about it, it will go away.
Another area in which our top leadership appears to give little concern for hazards facing children is in the area of our environment. Only a short time ago, it was documented that children who live within the reach of many of our refineries, which have been grand-fathered in to continue spewing pollution in the air, suffer incidents of leukemia and blood diseases at a dramatically greater rate than those children fortunate enough to live in areas whose environment is not polluted. It has been recently documented that many power companies, in spite of EPA regulations, are contaminating our atmosphere with mercury, which is resulting in hundreds and hundreds of ailments for children. These facts abound in Texas even while our governor and his fellow travelers advocate doing away with regulations or regulatory powers of agencies such as the EPA, thus putting our children at risk in an unwholesome and unhealthy atmosphere.
While I do not condemn advocates of the idea that life begins at conception, I do fervently wish we could pay greater attention to children we know are alive because they have already been born.
Carl Parker has practiced law in Port Arthur since 1958. He is a 1958 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and the Senate in 1976, Parker continued to practice law while writing and sponsoring hundreds of bills that became laws relating to every aspect of life in Texas, including many regarding consumer safety.