Who's Behind the Money? His Name Is Rumpelstiltskin
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Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 02:52:16 AM EST
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAmong several anti-choice bills already filed in the Texas Legislature, none is more insidious in its potential for harming women than a proposal from Rep. Ken Paxton -- attorney, Bible-believing literalist and pet legislator of the Heritage Alliance, Texas Eagle Forum, Texas Christian Coalition and the Christian right Free Enterprise PAC -- for the sale of license plates with the slogan "Choose Life."

Sales of "Choose Life" plates are ostensibly intended to encourage women to continue unexpected pregnancies instead of choosing the option of abortion. In Florida, sales of the plates have raised over $4 million, much of which the state allows to be administered by Catholic Charities, a move which has ignited a firestorm of predictable objection on constitutional grounds. But it is just as objectionable when a state channels large sums of money into increasing the number of babies available for adoption, while excluding any help for women who want to continue their pregnancies and mother their own children.  

That is the sole purpose of Ken Paxton's bill, which could as well have been authored by Rumpelstiltskin. It changes the focus of Texas' current state policy from the "active promotion of childbirth" to the active promotion of childbirth exclusively for purposes of adoption.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush doesn't deny that Choose Life plates are meant to promote adoption to the exclusion of other options; he just doesn't see anything objectionable in it.

[T]hroughout these cases, the states have insisted that the plates, while backed by pro-life groups and trumpeting the famous pro-life slogan, actually have nothing to do with abortion: They are simply "pro-adoption." In fact, when Jeb Bush signed the Florida plates into law he insisted: "It's a pretty tag and it says 'Choose Life' and it's for adoption. If people want to politicize that, they'll politicize anything."

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingCertainly anti-choice legislators such as Ken Paxton show little interest in the needs and interests of women who want to keep their babies and raise them, instead of finding that their only viable choices have come down to abortion or adoption. After all, sometimes the only way to find forgiveness is through sacrifice and atonement. And Paxton's bill, HB 224, is written to ensure that more women than ever are left with no other choice.

The Choose Life account is a separate account in the general revenue fund. The account is composed of:

              (1)  money deposited to the credit of the account ...; and
              (2)  gifts, grants, donations, and legislative appropriations.
        (b)  The attorney general administers the Choose Life account. The attorney general may spend money credited to the account only to:
              (1)  make grants to an eligible organization; and
              (2)  defray the cost of administering the account.
        (c)  The attorney general may not discriminate against an eligible organization because it is a religious or nonreligious organization.
        (d)  The attorney general may accept gifts, donations, and grants from any source for the benefit of the account.
        (e)  Of any money received by an eligible organization ... at least 50 percent must be spent to provide for the material needs of pregnant women who are considering placing their children for adoption, including the provision of clothing, housing, prenatal care, food, utilities, and transportation, and to provide for the needs of infants who are awaiting placement with adoptive parents.
In this section, "eligible organization" means an  organization in this state that:
              (1)  qualifies as a charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3), Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
              (2)  provides counseling and material assistance to pregnant women who are considering placing their children for adoption;
              (3)  does not charge for services provided;
              (4)  does not provide abortions or abortion-related services or make referrals to abortion providers; and
              (5)  is not affiliated with an organization that provides abortions or abortion-related services or makes referrals to abortion providers.


Photobucket - Video and Image HostingNot a penny to assist women who might not want an abortion, but who feel unable to, as so many women have said, "have my baby and then just give it away." Adoption can be a wonderful thing, but it isn't the answer for everyone.

Tax dollars aren't supposed to fund religious agendas, of course, but this is the Mission Statement of the Annunciation Maternity Home in Georgetown. Annunciation is sponsored by the Diocese of Austin and already is receiving state funding through the same scheme that funds Texas crisis pregnancy centers, a rich source of maternity home referrals.

Our mission is to live and exemplify the charism of the Annunciation of Mary depicted in the Gospel of Luke for pregnant women (ages 14 and up):

  • by teaching that they are blessed and loved by God

  • showing God's unconditional love for them by providing housing, educational and enrichment opportunities

  • by teaching faith in God's will and plan for their lives.

Our services are offered without regard to religious belief, and we make no religious demands on those who come to us for help.

But they certainly do have a captive audience, don't they?  Residents of the Annunciation Home are subjected to religious influence merely by the fact of their presence.

A cream-colored statue of the Virgin Mary towers over several toddlers as they scramble around a tile floor, chasing a plastic football.

Some of their mothers hold infants. One has a stomach that's swollen in the late stages of pregnancy. Most are teenagers.

It's an after-school evening at Annunciation Maternity Home, a residence for those 14 and older who are pregnant or recently gave birth.
It's the first site in a new state program that promotes childbirth over abortion and diverts $2.5 million a year from the state's $54 million family planning budget.
Critics have attacked the program for what it's not funding, medical care, and what they say it's promoting: a religious and political agenda.

"Instead of money going to organizations that can demonstrate they can meet medical needs, it's going to organizations that put ideology ahead of those medical needs, not just religious ideology but political ideology," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which promotes the separation of church and state.

Miller makes that objection because agencies requesting money from the state's program must "maintain a pro-life mission" -- and that mission is almost invariably powered by religious ideology.

Vincent Friedewald is executive director of the Texas Pregnancy Care Network, a group organized only when the prospect of a two year, $5,000,000 state contract appeared on the political horizon. Naturally enough, Friedewald sees no conflict with his agency's mission of administering that windfall while pocketing 15%, or $750,000, in administrative fees. He says that "disagreements about funding" shouldn't "get in the way" of providing "guidance" that helps women to "feel confident about choosing childbirth."  Friedewald adds, "the program very clearly is not funding religion," and "there's nothing political about it."

But still . . .

In the Annunciation Maternity Home dining room, where residents stuffed taco shells with ground beef and grated yellow cheese on a recent evening, a small image of The Last Supper hangs on a wall. On the other side of the home, near the bedrooms, is a small chapel.

Down the road at the office, a pink wall features a mural of two hands cradling an infant below the Bible verse: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you."

Since Annunciation already has approval as a beneficiary of the state's largesse, it and other maternity homes are a prime example of the kind of agency that will receive funding from Choose Life license plates.

At least homes like Annunciation don't throw a young woman out if she decides to keep her baby. Others, such as Christian Homes, exist solely to supply newborn babies to Christian parents, and any young woman who finds herself unable to give up her child soon finds herself summarily deprived of support. Christian Homes tells young women that they have "choices" . . .

An unplanned pregnancy can be confusing and frightening no matter your age or circumstances. Don't be pressured into a hasty decision. Your future and your baby's future are too important to be decided in a moment of panic.

                                You have choices!

You can call our hotline ... and have the comfort of talking with a caring Christian counselor. We provide counseling and education to help you with the emotions and choices you face. ... We have years of experience helping find answers to problems you shouldn't have to solve alone. We can help you explore your options so that you can make the best decision possible for you and your baby.

. . . but a closer look reveals that Christian Homes has only one choice on its menu.

Will my medical costs be covered?

When you plan adoption, Christian Homes pays maternity related medical expenses up to $5,000, except those covered by health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, CHAMPUS or third party resources. Our staff will assist you in filing for Medicaid if needed.
Once I sign the papers, can I change my mind?

In Texas, you will have 48 hours before you sign the adoption papers. You will not be able to change your mind after you sign the papers.
Can I choose the adoptive family for my baby?

Yes, you can choose from our approved, Christian prospective adoptive families.
What if I decide to parent my child after staying at the maternity home for 4-6 weeks?

After professional counseling should you decide that parenting your child is the right choice for you, an alternate plan will then be developed. This may involve your returning to your community where you lived . . .

Organizations currently qualified to receive state funding through the Texas Pregnancy Care Network of Bellville are not only maternity homes such as this one, but an extensive list of crisis pregnancy centers -- most of which are now restyling themselves as "pregnancy resource centers."  CPCs recently have been the subject of long-overdue Congressional scrutiny for deceiving and frightening pregnant women with graphic shock videos and false information, such as a supposed link between breast cancer and abortion.

But despite their ostensibly Christian mission, that's what many CPCs continue to do. Last February, the Texas Pregnancy Care Network wrote in a letter to state officials: "By informing (women) about what abortion is, what is done and the risks associated with it, they understand why childbirth is superior to abortion."

If scaring women who might otherwise choose abortion by summoning the specters of breast cancer, hemorrhage, hepatitis, sterility, fatal infections, cervical damage, embolisms, guilt and personality disorders doesn't help a woman feel confident about choosing childbirth, what will?  

The Dallas Pregnancy Resource Center uses every one of those fear-mongering tactics, and Ken Paxton's wife, Angela, sits on its board of directors.  

Angela has been involved in fundraising efforts for The Heidi Group and Grace Maternity Home. As an adopted child, she is grateful that her mother chose life for her.  
Angela is married to Ken Paxton, an attorney and member of the Texas Legislature.  They are members of Stonebriar Community Church where Angela is active in the worship ministry.  She is a stay-at-home mom to her four children: Tucker, Abigail, Madison and Katie.

The Dallas Pregnancy Resource Center clearly identifies itself as a "ministry" that can be trusted with its donors' money.

As a member of the EFCA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) our ministry adheres to the highest standards of Christian ethics in financial accounting and reporting.
As a part of the ECFA, we adhere to a set of Christian stewardship standards in our doctrinal statement, board of directors and audit review committee, audited financial statements, use of resources, financial disclosure, conflicts of interest and fundraising.

It's too bad that Mrs. Paxton's CPC doesn't hold itself to the same standard of Christian ethics with the unsuspecting women who are its clients.  

If her husband's proposed legislation becomes law, young women across Texas who are facing unexpected pregnancies will innocently place their trust in hundreds of eligible agencies with a significant financial interest in "counseling" them to forget about mothering their own children -- not when so many good Christian families are waiting.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Rumpelstiltskin illustration by Edward Gorey

[Title graphic by Heidi Scheumann]

really wanted to reduce the numbers of abortions in Texas, this isn't how they'd go about it.

If this bill becomes law, the range of women's choices in Texas will be constricted even further.

by moiv on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 02:59:21 AM EST

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