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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Republicans are 'Pro-life' -- Except for Most of the Time

Vintage drawing of elephant skeleton
Since the political news cycle has such a short memory, let's take a little trip in time, back to the heady days of the end of last June, when Texas legislator Wendy Davis had caught America's attention with a filibuster of Texas' restrictive abortion bill (sadly, later to become law). Texas governor and noted intellectual flyweight Rick Perry decided that the thing to do would be to attack Davis' humble beginnings as a single teenage mother. It was slut-shaming by allusion and it was done so hamhandedly that Perry immediately caught flak for it.

"She was the daughter of a single woman. She was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas Senate," Perry said in a speech before the National Right to Life convention. "It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters."

As I say, that went over like a lead balloon and so Perry -- being a Republican -- decided that more of what wasn't working would be he key its eventual success. So he went on talk radio and repeated his slur. Most people would not touch the red-hot handle again, seeing that it just burned them, but most people aren't elected Republicans.

"I said I was proud of what Wendy had accomplished in her life," Perry said. "I’m sad that she does not understand that every life is precious, and certainly her own."

Here's the thing: Rick Perry does not believe that "every life matters" or that "every life is precious." That's something he's proven over and over during his career as the nation's most prolific serial killer governor of the state leads the nation in executions. And it's that hypocrisy that State Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr. is hoping to highlight.


ThinkProgress: ...State Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr. (D) has introduced HB 45, which would prevent Texas from enforcing any of the abortion restrictions passed during this year’s special session until 60 days after Texas abolishes the death penalty:

LIMITATION ON ADDITIONAL ABORTION RESTRICTIONS. Notwithstanding any other law, a law enacted on or after June 1, 2013, that restricts access to abortion or the availability of abortion does not take effect until 60 days after publication in the Texas Register of a finding of fact made by the attorney general that the state has abolished the use of the death penalty as a punishment available on final conviction of a criminal offense.
At the end of June — right before the extra lawmaking sessions began — Texas executed its 500th person. The state has led the country in death penalty executions, contributing to one-third of the total number of Death Row inmates executed in the United States over the past several years.
Here's the thing about Texas leading the nation in executions -- it proves that capital punishment doesn't work. If capital punishment did work, then obviously Texas would have the lowest crime rate in the nation and their rate of execution would fall, not rise. But the fact is that the death penalty isn't the deterrent to violent crime that supporters claim it is. It's the opposite. The death penalty encourages a single murder to turn into a killing spree, as a desperate criminal's fight to avoid capture also becomes a fight to save their own life. Someone may be fine with taking their chances with a jury in life in prison is a likely outcome. The same can't be said the outcome is likely to be death. Murderers tend not to turn themselves in or give up peacefully in Texas. They're more likely to kill witnesses and fire on police. As a deterrent to crime, the death penalty sucks. There isn't even any logical reason to expect it to work as one.

But does Rick Perry and his GOP prayer squad believe that "every life is precious?" Obviously they do not. If they did, they'd be right on board with shutting down Texas' death factories and commuting the sentences of death row inmates to life in prison.

No, Perry and the Texas GOP have learned that the way to keep getting elected is the George W. Bush way, a former Lone Star guv himself. You convince enough gullible voters that the only thing standing between them and destruction is to reelect Republicans. The death penalty is ineffective and expensive -- and may even increase violent crime -- but Texas Republicans can demagogue how "tough on crime" they are by displaying the shrunken heads of the executed on their belts. Texas Republicans, like all Republicans, are "pro-life" -- except for most of the time, when they want to execute people, fight wars, starve the poor, neglect the sick, or have everyone hold loaded guns to everyone else's heads, in the name of "public safety."

Every life matters -- right up until snuffing it out is better politics.

Dutton's bill is a stunt, to be sure. It's doomed to fail and designed to bring attention to Republican hypocrisy. But it shouldn't just be a stunt. If there was any consistency in Republican reasoning, these "pro-life" politicians would work to end capital punishment.

But of course, that would require sincerity from Republicans -- which is always too much to ask.


[image via Wikimedia Commons]

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