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Monday, July 1, 2013

Every Life Matters

prenatal life at 24 weeks
Governor Rick Perry commented last week on Texas senator Wendy Davis's 11 hour filibuster, one that effectively blocked passage of a bill outlawing abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy (rather than 24) and requiring abortion clinics to meet hospital standards.

He said, "Even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. 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. It is 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." *

In her response, the senator, reflecting the polarized tone of the debate, replied, "Rick Perry's statement is without dignity and tarnishes the high office he holds. They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view. Our governor should reflect our Texas values. Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test."

I totally affirm Governor Perry's statement that every life matters. What makes me sad is that he, like so many others, fail to apply this value across the board to all stages of life.

Kimberly McCarthy at 52 years
For example, on the very day after Perry made his statement, Texas executed its fourth female on death row, 52-year-old Kimberly McCarthy, charged with a brutal robbery and murder in 1998 as a crack cocaine addict.

I totally agree that the life of McCarthy's innocent victim truly mattered, and that severe consequences were called for.But every life is precious, including that of McCarthy's, who happened to be the 500th person executed in Texas since 1976.

Texas by far outranks other states in the capital punishment department. Together with Virginia, in second place with 110 executions during that same time period, they are responsible for nearly half of all of the total executed in the U.S. since capital punishment was reinstated some 37 years ago.

Here's another sobering statistic. While African Americans represent13% of the U.S. population, they are executed at a far higher rate. There may be many factors affecting these numbers, but I hope we can forever eliminate race as being one of them.

No matter where we are in debates over social policy, please repeat after me: "Every life matters."

* Fact check: Ms. Davis was actually born in a two-parent family, but her parents divorced when she was 11. 
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