When it comes to the topic of abortion, things can get pretty heated because there a lot of sides to it. Should it be legal or illegal? Is it a criminal offense? Is a miscarriage labeled as abortion? There are a lot of questions that you really have to do extensive research. Well today’s guest did his research on this topic that not too many men think about. Join Claire Campos O’Neal and Nichole Abshire as they talk to Scott White, a supportive dad who just attended his daughter’s advocacy event about abortion, which lit the lightbulb for him. He then decided to learn more about abortion so he can inspire those around him to learn more too via uncomfortable conversations. Discover his thoughts and insights about abortion in the state of Texas. Learn the history of how abortion started and what’s in store for future generations. Start educating yourself on this topic today!
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Let’s Talk About Abortion In Texas With Scott White (Culture Wars)
We are happy you’re here with us. In this episode, we are going to be talking about abortion in our Culture War series. This is one of those big topics that I was a little intimidated by, but I’m glad that we were able to chat with Scott White and learn more about this. If anything I’m coming away with, it’s that we need to talk about abortion.
Interestingly enough, Scott has an Instagram handle called @LetsTalkAboutAbortionInTX. We were like, “This is right up the alley of what this conversation’s going to entail.” He is a very interesting guest, a little bit different from the “guest experts” that we have most of the time. He had such a great journey to share about how he educated himself on abortion. We were excited to dig into that and share it with all of you. Nichole, what did you think of Scott in our conversation?
I’m glad that we found him. I guess you found him.
He found us.
However that happened, it’s amazing. He is such a perfect example of everything that we hope to emulate, which is this idea of getting more engaged, getting awakened to whatever political issue starts to make your blood pump a little bit and then following a learning journey path. That is exactly what happened. As he describes, there’s no reason why he would’ve discovered this world of abortion talk had he not attended this event. I love that we talked to a man. It’s important that we change the conversation so that it is super inclusive. I love that he is an example of someone who chose to educate himself and others and that he is very honest about his journey and learning as he goes with a willingness to have tough conversations. It’s fantastic.
I also want to make a quick note, especially touching on inclusivity. Generally, for this conversation, we did use women when we were talking about pregnancy. We want to acknowledge that there are pregnant people or people who get pregnant, who do not identify as women. We generally said women, but we know that it impacts other Texans as well. Check out this episode. We hope you learn something valuable and useful.
We’re excited to chat with Scott White about abortion. Scott, how are you doing?
I’m doing great. How are you?
I’m good. I’m feeling a little haired. It’s one of those days when it’s like, “Here or there,” but it’s like, “Settle in for the conversation.” This is a big topic. I feel like it’s one of the Culture Wars that’s almost like, “It’s so loaded.” I’m glad we’re still going forth, and we’re going to discuss it. Part of what makes it so intimidating is that we don’t talk about it enough, normalize it, and have conversations. That’s a big reason we wanted to chat with you because you have a great Instagram handle called @LetsTalkAboutAbortionInTXs. I’m like, “It can’t get more perfect than that.” You are a great match for this conversation.
Thank you. It’s an honor to be here. It’s an honor to participate in this conversation. It’s an important one for all of us to have with everybody. I’m excited to share my experiences through it with the two of you and go from there.
We always like to start at the beginning with our guest’s origin stories and find out more about where they came from and that developmental process. Are you from Texas? What was your upbringing like?
I am from Texas and a fourth-generation Texan. My wife’s a fifth-generation Texan. I was born in Lubbock, Texas, but we didn’t stay there long and then ended up in Silsbee, Texas, which is deep in Southeast Texas, North of Beaumont. I was there all the way through high school. That’s my early background. From there, I got out of school, went back to Lubbock, joined a company called Accenture or Anderson Consulting, worked there for 32 years, and retired in 2022. I now live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with my wife, and some pets, and we have three adult children. All of them are out of the house, 2 of them are out of college, and 1 in college. I’m getting closer.
I have to throw in. I am a sixth-generation Texan, and it is hilarious that we know these things. It’s a family unit that you talk about how many generations you’ve lived in this state, so I feel that.
Did your family talk about politics growing up? Was it something that you remember having these discussions about the dinner table, or was it more like, “That’s not polite conversation, so we’re not going to touch that one?”
Politics, growing up, we didn’t talk about it that much. I grew up in the probably mid-’70s to mid-’80s. Everybody was a Democrat on both sides of the family. All of Texas were Democrats back in the ‘70s and whatnot. For me anyway, in the late ‘70s when we had the Carter administration, the high inflation, cratered the oil and gas industry, and the lumber industry in East Texas, both my parents at that time had small businesses and went bankrupt. They lost their small businesses and had to move out of the area.
In my mind, I blamed the Democrats and Carter at the national level. When Reagan came along and changed monetary policy, which I learned about later in college, I was like, “The Democrats have no idea how to handle money.” I blamed them for that time. I’ve been a Republican, in every sense of the word, since the early ‘80s.
It’s funny. It wasn’t until not that long ago that I learned Texas was a Democratic state for the longest time, and then there was a switch because they’re such a strong Republican stronghold now. We think at this moment in time that things have always been this way, but they haven’t. Things are a little bit different now because of gerrymandering and this intentional rigging of the system, but things are pendulum. We go from one direction to another in America, and sometimes it’s nice to zoom back and be like, “It’s not how it’s always been, and this is not how it’s always been.”
A vivid memory I had was of a great uncle that was friends with Mark White Jr, who was the Governor. When he passed away in the mid-’80s, I vividly remember Mark White speaking at his funeral. It was weird to be “Republican” back then, like, “What are you doing hanging out with these elitist banker types instead of the farmers, ranchers, and working-class folks?”
That’s pretty true for most of the South, which used to be Democratic. It’s only been since the ‘80s that things flipped in terms of party control. It’s interesting.
Let’s move in to talk a little bit more about abortion. I’m curious. What made you decide to educate yourself on this specific topic?
It was a very specific activity or event that happened to me. In my professional career and my private life, I never said the word abortion. I never thought about it, but my daughter got involved as a freshman down at UT with a nonprofit organization. They put on a little event. It was called Give an Ear. The idea was a low pressure come and learn more type of activity. She put a lot of energy into it, her and her friends, and did it on Republic Square, Downtown Austin. I’m generally oblivious to most of this being the dad, and as parents, you got to show up. My wife and I showed up. It’s an all-day event.
We’re like, “We get to be here all day. This is great.” We got there, and all of a sudden, she and her friends had these great speakers. They had Paxton Smith who was famous or infamous for changing her valedictorian speech to focus on abortion if you guys remember that one that blew up. Vikki Goodwin showed up, and I had no idea who she was at the time. She stood up and said, “This is great. I’m glad you all are here. You all need to vote, and unless we get new leaders, we’re probably going to have the same laws.” I’m like, “Okay, that’s fine.” Another person that influenced me that day was a lady named Kristen Herring.
Kristen told a story where she and her husband went through a journey, in essence, a normal pregnancy, but they got pretty late into it, and they realized that the child was non-viable. They had a very short window of time to deal with that. The abortion laws got in the way, and Kristen almost died in the process. As she was going through that, I just sat there.
I was like, “There’s a real challenge here that people are having,” and people like myself, which are my demographic, my age group, what we think about all day is we don’t think about these things. It’s painful to have these women having to advocate by themselves against the rest of the world. I’m like, “I need to learn more about this.” I promise you. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started thinking about this sitting in the room. That was my trigger. That was April 2022.
I was curious if this was before or after SB 8 had passed and sounds like it was after, so that’s why I’m sure Kristen had that terrible experience because SB 8 had gone into effect.
SB 8 was a part of it, but there were other parts of it where she’ll tell the story that her healthcare provider told her not to do additional investigations early on. They told her the wrong information, so it delayed her longer to find the right information. When they found out that the child was not viable, they still wouldn’t like to do anything for a long time unless she went through all these other procedures.
When she finally went to have the procedure, it was in an office environment, and her husband couldn’t join her. She went through a throng of people telling her rough things. She came out of it beat up. She’s like, “I want to tell other people this story.” She’s the 1% scenario, but the 1% scenario is a viable scenario for any of us.
If I’m understanding what you’re saying, there’s not necessarily something in your background that would have predicted that you would show up to an event invited by your daughter and then get this fire lit and go on this learning journey.
None whatsoever. It stepped through. It’s not like you never thought I would know what I know now. When I found out Kristen’s story, I was like, “No one ever talks about abortion.” My next step was I went home and called three of my very close friends. We sat around all night talking about this. We said, “Let’s talk about abortion.” We covered the spectrum from one end to the other. We went into every little detail as three old men can probably do, as much as you can think about all the theory and nontheory.
The weird thing is, even though we crossed the spectrum, we came out with, at the end of the day, what we thought was a reasonable policy that the four of us would put into place. That got me excited that I said, “Maybe I should talk about this with more people.” It was one little step that led to another little step, and then the next thing you know, I’ve done a lot of research.
What prompted you to invite your friends into the conversation?
It was that point where I’d listened to that event, and then I’m like, “I don’t know where to take this. Let’s talk about it.” Maybe I want to be provocative with my friends at that point in time. We entertain ourselves that way. We’ve talked about a lot of different issues in the past, but we never talked about abortion before. All of them went back and said, “We had a great conversation. We enjoyed it.”
We ended up probably doing that many more times through the next couple of weeks. I made my parents talk about abortion with me, and they had some interesting stories. A number of my friends talked about it with me, and they had some interesting stories. There was a desire to have a small group conversation about this or people wanted to have these types of conversations.
I feel like this is a model we need to take everywhere, all of us in our lives. How do you tee up those conversations?
You’ve got to be having a good time doing something else. I’ll give one example. We have a lake house, down near LBJ, and we’re all floating in the water. I said, “I have a good idea,” at 3:00 on a Saturday, “Let’s talk about abortion.” They’re like, “No.” As soon as you say that, then right into it, everybody starts telling their personal stories. It’s nice. I’ve had people come to me that was like, “I appreciate you, Scott, talking about this. Let’s meet. Let me tell you something. I haven’t told anybody that before,” and I’m like, “That’s great.”
It also sounds as though your approach is not coming in with an agenda. You’re not looking to proselytize, for lack of a better word, to people. You are wanting to have a conversation.
I want to have a conversation. Every intention I ever had with anybody on the call, no matter where they were with me or what I or they believe in, I wanted to understand them. That’s been the basis of what I’ve done so far. As I went through the journey, I became more confident in my personal position. I was a bit more, “This is bad,” or, “This is good,” about certain things, but in terms of the people I interacted with, I respect everybody that I’ve had the honor to interact with on this topic.No matter who you talk to or what they believe in, really respect and understand them. Click To Tweet
That is something worth modeling. Some feedback I’ve received about our show is they’re like, “You have a perspective on certain things, but you don’t come across this group of people. They’re idiots for believing this or that.” At the end of the day, it’s the systemic thing that we’re interested in and why it is the way it is. People come from all journeys, and we’re all learning.
To be critical of someone and make them feel stupid or shameful, I’m not interested in that because that further pushes us apart instead of together, and only together can we figure this out. That’s a good question, Nichole, “How’d you get people to open up?” What were the reactions like? Did you ever get into real hot water with some of these conversations? It seems very emotionally charged, or at least can get to that place.
There are some places where they became emotionally charged, but usually, it was not with me per se. It was 2 or 3 steps away. It’s like, “Because Scott put out these videos, it made this other person 2 or 3 steps away mad or upset,” or something like that. There’d be residual things pinging around the background a little bit. As you know, there are a lot of different angles on this particular topic. It’s easy for people to potentially get mad about it. I said, “Part of the journey of this topic is to make people mad, so they’re going to get mad a little bit.” That’s how it is.It's normal to get mad when talking about abortion. It's part of the journey. Click To Tweet
I love that you were willing to risk that. Sometimes we can get so complacent and value comfort over growth. That’s great that you were like, “Let’s do the hard thing.”
You went to this event that your daughter put on and started talking to your friends. How did you continue to educate yourself and form your opinion on abortion?
I envisioned these little video things in my head as I was working through that process and videoing the whiteboarding session or thinking about this and the other. That started it. If you think about abortion, there are so many different threads to it, the history of it and what it is and what it isn’t, and the faith-based, legal-based, and constitutional-based aspects of it.
It was the day the Dobbs Amendment came out. I’m like, “You got to do this.” I had my daughter set me up on Instagram because I didn’t know how to do Instagram, Twitter, or barely Facebook. They helped me with that part. I did the first video, and then I started interviewing a bunch of people that had different points of view, and they started shaping my opinion. I got to the end of it and then started being more specific about what I believed, especially as we got closer to the election.
It sounds like you started with an open mind. It was about learning. At some point, I’m sure all along you were aware of your own values, but that started to inform what you then had an opinion about.
I’ll tell you the story that led me to the path that let me have a firm opinion. My previous opinion was somewhere in the middle, I would say okay or not okay. I believe both sides, but I’m okay with the laws that we used to have in the past. One of the things I did was I came back and called up my representative here in the area, this guy named Giovanni Capriglione. I looked up, and apparently, he’s the guy that sponsored the Trigger Bill or House Bill 1280. This is before I posted any videos, and I’m like, “Can you talk to me about abortion?”
I didn’t expect him to call me back, but he did. Two days later, we talked and had about a twenty-minute conversation, and it was a good conversation. What he said there were a couple of interesting things that were like, “What are you talking about?” He did sponsor the bill, but he’s like, “Do you know about the abortion PACs in Texas?” I’m like, “No, not really.” He’s like, “There are two of them. There’s Texas Right to Life and Texas Alliance for Life. They hate each other. They absolutely can’t stand each other,” which I thought was interesting.
Again, I’ve never spoken to either of these people in these PACs. I can’t verify or deny either of these things. In the Texas Right to Life PAC, he told this story about how he had backed away a couple of years ago from supporting everything they were pushing on him on. They basically went out and printed cards with dead babies and his name on them and passed them around Austin.
The way he said it, and I interpreted it, is they shamed him into passing that law, putting it forward, supporting it, and everything else. That tuned me into the PACs. I did some research on the PACs. After researching the most conservative one, the Texas Right to Life PAC, I learned the names of the Wilks Brothers and Tim Dunn for the first time. This is well before I learned all the other stuff about these two individuals.
They’re the money behind those PACs. I’m like, “Only two guys are supporting these PACs. They got this guy to pass this law.” I knew at that point, in spite of all the threads that exist for abortion, the one that mattered most for this group was the political aspect of it, driving a political behavior associated with it. Even though I covered all the other areas, I eventually knew that this was the end game for the topic.
I’m going to break in and remind people who are reading, in case they don’t remember. A PAC is a Political Action Committee. They can take on singular issues and advocate for whatever that position might be. Often it can be unclear who is funding those political action committees. At the grassroots, it can seem like a lot of people take this position. When you follow the money, you will sometimes discover that it isn’t a grassroots organization at all, that it can be funded by a very wealthy few who are pushing a specific agenda that may or may not align with what most people believe and would advocate for.
It’s always good to make sure we’re all on the same page together, especially with PAC money. I’ll also plug, who are these billionaires? We did do an episode about following the money in Texas politics with Chris Tackett, and he broke down how two billionaires are funding PACS in Texas, candidates in Texas, and controlling a lot of the political rhetoric. It makes you wonder, “Is this about life, or is it about something else?” This sounds like where you were stepping into, Scott.
Early on, I looked at the Constitution and said, “What does the Constitution say about abortion?”
The US Constitution or Texas?
The US one. In Texas, I haven’t looked at so much, but the US one. It’s interesting. It doesn’t say anything about it, so I presume everybody that wrote it never thought about it. That’s my presumption. They use the word born. You have to be born in the US to become president. Later on, the 14th Amendment, which was the famous one, confirmed that all the folks who were former slaves or citizens had to be born or natural citizens. It uses the word born a couple of times, but it never talks about the idea of a person before they’re born as being identified inside the Constitution.
I thought that was an interesting take on it. Roe versus Wade was waiting in that space, but there is an argument that says, “There’s nothing in the US Constitution about abortion rights per se.” I did that for a bit and thought that was interesting. I looked at the biblical and faith-based portions of it as well. I’m saying these things, and for anybody reading, this is my own research, point of view, and every one of my videos. I encourage you to do your own research and develop your own point of view, but this is my takeaway.There's nothing in the US Constitution about abortion rights. Click To Tweet
I read quite a few things, and there are a couple of areas in the Bible that could point indirectly to awareness of life before you were born. There are also parts of the Bible that say, “You started when you were born. God breathed life into you.” It’s about equal on both sides. Certainly, the New Testament, which is the basis of Christianity, is completely making no comments on it whatsoever. Anyway, I didn’t know these things before studying those two threads, for example.
I want to jump in again and say that we are in Texas. This is on my mind because I created a TikTok and an Instagram where I was sharing with our readers that we had our first two Muslim representatives sworn in, in the Texas House. It’s so easy for us in Texas too, when we think about faith-based or religion, it automatically is thought about Christianity. I’m putting that out there for us to keep in mind.
I’ve been fortunate in my professional career to travel and live in places all around the world. It’s a lot easier to see differences when you’ve been in different places, especially since the Texas version of Christianity is limited to Texas. The other parts of the world don’t practice it the same way.
I don’t think I realized that until college in my Latin American studies where I was like, “There’s this social justice component to some Christianity different versions.” you can get very narrow-focused when you don’t step outside your comfort zone or your hometown. Thanks, Nichole. We do default faith-based Texas, Christianity. That’s what that means.
Let’s talk about some of the things you were touching on regarding abortion. What is abortion, or what is your understanding of abortion? I’ll add to this. Not until the Dobbs decision and I started learning more about abortion did I realize that when you have a miscarriage, that’s classified as an abortion medically. It’s different than I thought it was. Tell us what you’ve discovered on your journey.
The original abortion word is a medical term, and it was saying when the products of pregnancy prematurely exit the body. It was only the doctor who ran around using this word per se, but then it evolved. There’s the nonmedical version of the same word. 1 word and 2 different meanings represent the deliberate termination of a pregnancy.
We also have the word miscarriage, which you mentioned, which is the nondeliberate abortion before twenty weeks. There’s another word called stillborn if the child makes it to twenty weeks or passed, yet it doesn’t completely successful. If you were to have a miscarriage, and you go in to see the doctor, you may see the word abortion as the official medical condition that you were faced with. That’s the background.
The terminology is important to be mindful of, especially as we’re having more bills passed that have words like abortion in them, and this move towards criminalizing abortions like, “What if a woman has a miscarriage and abortion is listed on her medical records? Is there a world where you’re having a nondeliberate abortion that you could be criminalized?” This has happened in other countries. It is an alarmist to start considering that as a path we could be on and why we need to talk about this more and more to be like, “This is what some of the consequences are when we don’t educate ourselves and get on the same page.”
Tell us a little bit about the history. Something I’m interested in is how we get to where we are now. It seems like it was, at least my understanding, the rise of the religious right, where abortion became this almost singular voting issue for a lot of folks. It’s so polarizing. It comes down to a lot of people’s decisions at the ballot box, at least in Texas. Can you zoom back a little bit and tell us some of the histories?
I looked into this, and I was very curious myself as well about how it all evolved. The first thing I went all the way back, and everywhere I’ve read prehistory of pre-Christianity, and as far as people have been recording stuff, there’s been evidence of humans wanting to, in pregnancies early on purpose. They had all different ways to do it. Probably some of them weren’t better than others. When Christianity was on the scene, these practices were happening at that time. Everything I read said that they were. It was the Catholic Church, at least 100 or 200 years later, that began thinking about this topic.
They knew that there was obviously not a lot about the reproductive cycle back then, but there was this, “I’m pregnant, but I don’t see this moving baby in my belly yet.” There’s the moving baby part, so they called that the quickening. The Catholic church had this theory that at that time, the quickening is when the soul entered the body because they needed to think about when the soul entered the body of how that played out through the rest of the life cycle within the Catholic Church.
This went back and forth between debates inside the Catholic Church on whether it was at the quickening or conception that the soul entered the body. Fast-forward, hundreds of years later, and I wrote down here in 1869, so not that long ago is when the Catholic pope decided that, “Indeed the soul enters the body at the point in time of conception.”
That’s where the Catholics were at that time. On the Protestant side, the Protestants and the Catholics didn’t get along. If you guys remember, they had a few battles and wars with each other. In the US, the Catholics were looked at as dismissed in a way. The Catholics were over there, and the Protestants were over here, and we all talked to each other. The largest Protestant is the Southern Baptist, which only picked up the abortion topic from 1970 to 1973, very specifically around when Roe versus Wade came out.
Their leadership said, “We think this abortion thing has merit. We should borrow from the Catholic Church and adopt the idea that the soul enters the body at the point in time of conception.” That’s when the Southern Baptist started working on it. The evangelistic churches probably were about ten years behind in picking up the same concept. By the time we get to where we are now, you see the evangelistic churches and the Catholic churches are the ones that have the belief system associated with when the soul enters the body, and therefore when God believes life begins.
That sounds great, talking about the history of it. It’s interesting, too, thinking about what you said about what history is. There’s the faith and the legal component. It is very complicated. How do you even craft some law that says, “This is permissible, and this isn’t?” At the end of the conversation, we’ll talk about that, but we can mention it now. It’s this idea of how you craft a humane law about abortion. It’s not easy.
Something that I think about that’s helped me with my understanding of this is Slate Podcast came out with a great series, Slow Burn Series, about Roe versus Wade, and they talk so much about the history and the struggle that the Supreme Court justices went through, trying to come up with a good compromise on abortion. Specifically, Blackstone, the one who wrote the opinion and how he wrestled with this and went back to history to get his opinion. It’s one of those things where it’s not cut and dry. It’s also philosophical like, “What is life? When is the start? When is it acceptable to terminate life?” and those things.
My connection between those two is again the Catholic Church has laws. That’s their law. They wrote them down, and it’s not just abortion or everything. It’s marriage and contraception and everything else that they got into. When Roe versus Wade was coming down, my imagination was that the Constitution said born, and then one argument said, “If you wait until 33 weeks, and they could be born, but they’re not born, what about that?”
My view is, it’s a little bit about that Supreme Court, saying, “They have to be born because that’s the only thing that’s in the Constitution.” This idea of when can you theoretically be born and be expected to live, that’s where Roe versus Wade, the idea of viability, was the compromise. It didn’t make the people that wanted to have a law that says, “Life begins at conception to be the law.” They were still mad.
The interesting thing is, how far do you take it? We talked about this in the initial questions that we sent out to you, but this idea of HOV lanes, High Occupancy Vehicles, the case that if you’re pregnant, you’re considered to have 1 person or 2 people. What if we have a woman who comes to America who’s an immigrant, and she’s pregnant, is that child now a naturalized citizen? Are they a citizen before it’s the baby’s delivered? I don’t know where it ends and how you draw that line.
If you move past the faith-based concept, and now you’re trying to write down laws that everybody has to live by, you have to shift your brain away from, “What does the world of faith say,” to, “What does the word of the law say? What’s our legal structure?” The constitution starts, and then it works its way down to the state and everything else. If you do this thought experiment, and this is what I’ve read, the strong anti-abortion people are trying to get to is this idea that you are a citizen at the point in time of fertilization or conception. They have a name for it. It’s called Fetal Personhood.When you write laws, you have to shift your brain away from what does the world of faith say to what does the word of law say. Click To Tweet
If you google the language fetal personhood, you’ll get a whole bunch of stuff out there. In some people’s minds, they would like the constitution to say fetal personhood is a real thing and the state has a right to protect a citizen, the unborn child, from the moment in time, that they’re conceived through the rest of life. Protection includes protecting that life from any old thing that could happen to it, including something that his mother might decide for it to do.
This is where it gets a little weird because then you’re like, “Are they on a census count? When the census comes by, can you write an insurance policy on the person?” It’s all nonsensical from that perspective. You can’t treat an unborn person or unborn thing as a person legally because it doesn’t work in the laws. This is where the laws get all tripped up trying to write laws for this around abortion.
The other thing I’m thinking, as you’re talking, is the Catholic Church trying to decide when the soul enters the body. We’re all assuming, like, “Of course, a soul enters the body,” but does everyone believe that? Is everyone accepted that’s the way things are? Some people don’t, yet decisions are being made based on religion, and that’s where that separation is important. In Texas, we see them instead of separating them coming closer together, and a lot of people are impacted in a way that they probably don’t even believe to begin with. That’s another layer that occurred to me.
My brain is breaking, but I’m so glad we’re having this conversation.
Where have you landed in your research? What kind of word do you suggest we use? The one we default to is life. Even that, is it personhood? What have you learned as the right language or a better language?
Where my turning point in my journey was when I started reading House Bill 1280 Texas Law, which I read SB 8 as well. That’s the Senate Bill Law. That one had one funny thing around the heartbeat component. By the way, I’ll do a quick sidebar on that one. What happens when your body is forming, the first thing that starts to work is the electrical impulses. The cells that form the pacemaker is the thing that starts. That pacemaker is what the technology is able to pick up electrical impulses and then convert them to a sound.
It’s not a heartbeat from a fully formed heart that’s making an actual analog sound. It’s a little bit of a misnomer in what they put in that one. 1280 went further, and I talked about fetal personhood. Texas Law is fetal personhood now. It is legally on the books. If you read House Bill 1280, there are legal definitions at the top. They equate that, “Every form of a fetus or embryo as they go through the development cycle is equal to an unborn living child.” They do that legally because a little bit later on, they get around to setting up punishments and everything else for it. You have to declare fetal personhood to declare protection for it.
To me, I was like, “This is a very sloppy law. It’s mean.” As I kept reading the law, it got even weirder because they had a punishment for a doctor that performed an abortion as a first-degree felony, wherein a sexual assault in Texas is a second-degree felony. This is hypothetical that sometimes I tell people if for some reason a person was sexually assaulted and became pregnant and got an abortion in Texas, and the doctor got tried, and the sexual assault got tried, the person with a sexual assault would get twenty years in prison, and the doctor that performed the abortion would get 99 years in prison.
Making this a law to me is so bizarre that a group of human beings could write this. They wrote it in a vacuum without many other people having input. Any normal group of people would struggle with it. For me, this was the triggering mechanism that said, “We need to find a more balanced and workable law for our Texas citizens.”
What does that look like? It sounds like you have something.
If I were to write a law, the first thing that I tell people is we need to trust our women to make their decisions, in all cases. For me, I’m fine with the different groups, providing input about what to do when you’re dealing with pregnancy and with a very difficult situation. Ultimately, it’s up to the female to decide what to do and work with their support and medical network to make those decisions.
If you were to compromise on something, you would give something of 12 to 15 weeks of choice without any second opinion. Anything after that under some medical necessity or with the doctor’s support should be okay. To me, that would meet most people’s needs and still supports having as few abortions as possible because it’s a tough situation for people to be in. We don’t want them to be there.
I’ll do a quick reminder that the law in Texas is that you cannot get an abortion after six weeks. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. There are some for if the life of the mother is threatened, but that’s been murky in the medical community. For those of you who do not menstruate, it’s hard to know that you’re pregnant before six weeks. It’s very difficult to catch.
Scott, it looks like you want to say something.
Unfortunately, it’s zero weeks.
Tell me more about that.
It’s the same one that set the deal. In House Bill 1280, the only way that you can have an abortion in Texas is if it’s by a doctor or a medical professional, and you have a risk of dying or losing a major bodily function. That is the only exception. The way it’s written is weird, but they go to a big paragraph if you are a suicide risk, “If you don’t let me do this, then I’m going to like kill myself.” They specifically call that out and say, “Not included as a reason to get the abortion,” because everybody’s like, “It’s a loophole. Everybody will use that loophole.”
If you’re a twelve-year-old child, no. If it’s rape or incest, no. Regarding mental health issues, I have one story I’ll quickly share. A lady operates at about 8th or 10th-grade level, but she’s 22 years old. She had a friend and got pregnant. The mother was like, “She can’t raise a child,” so no mental health exceptions. That’s what the law is now. Women are leaving.
Even if I was incorrect, thank you for setting that straight. It’s also confusing because in other states, now that Roe has fallen, it’s falling to other states, so other states have different laws. I might be confusing us with a different state. There’s a lot. It’s a patchwork system at the moment. It’s not good if you are in a bad situation, and you need to access an abortion because you can’t. Thank you for fixing that for me. I’m curious. Why do you think that we see so much political capital spent on legislating abortion and yet not as much, at least it feels like, ought to help these families once these children come?
On the political side, it triggers voters. There’s a large voting block that will vote for it. The historical republic’s position is on the backside helping the families. They’ll attribute that or can’t attribute that to a welfare concept. There’s a desire in the Republican Party, not to give out government money to people, encourage them to get out, and work and do things like that. It’s competing within themselves that is the problem there.
You don’t quite see the support network on the backside, but you would think it would be very easy to create a huge incentive for someone to keep a child by providing a year of paid medical leave and a support structure, especially for women and families that need additional help. You would think that would be a great approach, but we don’t see it in the laws.
I’ve mentioned this before in the show, but I read this great book not that long ago called The Girls Who Went Away. This was a book that chronicled women, this is before Roe, before women could get an abortion in America who became pregnant, young women, teens, in their early twenties, and were unsure what to do with their pregnancy. Many times, they were sent away to these homes where they would carry out their pregnancy to term, and then their children would be adopted out.
They were told by their families, by the people running these homes, “You’re going to forget about this. You’re going to go on. You’re going to have your own family, and everything will be fine.” It wasn’t fine, not a surprise, but a lot of these women took this path because they were in a poor financial situation or their families didn’t want them to have children. Generally, they’re like, “Maybe I want this baby, but I don’t have the means to take care of this baby. What are my options?” There’s no great option, is what we’re saying here. It’s tough getting pregnant.
I’m only an observer. I’ll give you one data point to add to that thought process because it is helpful. Sixty percent of women who seek an abortion already have a child. Whereas most common thought processes, you’re always thinking of the young person that gets themselves in trouble. The mothers already know what they’re getting into.Sixty percent of women who seek an abortion already have a child. Click To Tweet
It’s interesting to try to match reality with the perception that we have. That is such a good point. The other common perception is that it is single reckless people who are not being careful and looking for an easy way out. It’s great that you were bringing that up. There are a lot of disconnects there.
I did some math where I counted all the people that connected with each other and the normal failure rate of different types of contraceptive uses. With normal, perfect contraceptive uses, you’re still going to get a big population of unwanted pregnancies. My calculation said we should have about 120,000 in Texas per year based on my math, and we were looking at 55,000 the last time they were counting them. It’s going to happen. It’s part of our existence on the planet.
As we’re wrapping up this conversation, we talked about this a little bit regarding Texas Right to Life PAC. Tell us a little bit about how Christian nationalism plays into this specific topic.
Abortion and Christian nationalism are highly connected. The obvious thing is if you have a faith-based belief system that the soul enters the body at the point in time of conception, then you’re going to be comfortable with laws that follow that belief system. Christian nationalism, in their desire to connect the dots, needs people to believe that. To believe that, especially young people, you need to be going to certain schools.
To go to those schools, you need to have things like vouchers and charter schools and other things to make those schools attractive, so you can teach these things. It’s all intertwined in the basic belief systems that we have. My belief is that movement and the money behind it are what’s behind everything. Do you guys ever drive up and down 35 East and see what I call the baby boards? If you drive to Dallas and drive back, it’s all on 35.
I just drove to Dallas. You’re exactly right.
Every time I drive past them, I used to be like, “These people care about babies here in the middle of nowhere,” and later on, I’m like, “Tim Dunn funded all of these billboards. I feel like I’m being manipulated.” That’s what I see when I run down that highway now versus empathy for the locals that are supposedly putting them up there. I don’t believe it’s true. It’s done outside those communities.
For people who don’t know what we’re talking about, it’s usually a picture of an adorable little baby face or a baby in a blanket, and it will say something “innocent,” like, “My life began at conception.” They’re meant to tug at the heartstrings, that’s for sure.
Very sophisticated, emotive advertising.
It’s funny you say sophisticated, but with a sheen of amateurishness about them.
It’s so sophisticated that they look like amateurs. It’s exactly what it is.
It looks like somebody could have sat at home and built it themselves.
I don’t like that. You even shared a little bit of that with us in your pre-answer to our questions about how you were frustrated that you felt like you were misled. Is that right?
For me, personally, as I went through this, I didn’t vote for Donald Trump because he assaulted my senses but I voted Republican for everybody else pretty much ever since then, even all the locals, state governments, and staff. When I understood the connection of the Christian nationalist people and how it was a small number of people that were using a lot of sophisticated techniques to decide and, in essence, own the Republican Party through everything that they do in the process of doing it, I switched. I told my dad and others who said, “You’re a Democrat now.” I’m like, “It’s not that I’m not a Republican. The Republican Party left me.”
I voted all Democrat in November 2022 for the first time in my life. It would be nice to have Democrats and Republicans fighting for the goodness of the middle ground again, which is not where we are in Texas, in my view. Hopefully, we can get back there someday, and I’m going to try to do that. If Republicans start losing some offices, they’ll soften their opinions on some of these ideas. That’s where I am. That’s where I’ll stay until something changes.It'd be nice to have Democrats and Republicans fighting for the goodness of the middle ground again. Click To Tweet
I keep thinking about how you attending this one event that your daughter was a part of that led you down this unique journey. How has it been with the two of you now talking about this?
She’s moved on to other things now, but we like to talk politics every now and then. It gets her excited. She’s getting a Social Work degree from UT. She’s all into these topics. She’s very happy that I’m doing these things, I believe. All three of my daughters are very supportive.
I loved this idea of children being able to help teach their parents something new. Sometimes I feel like there’s this resistance, “I’m the parent.” It’s hard for parents to get outside that mindset and be like, “There are things my kids can teach me.” I’m at the beginning of this, but I’m excited about where they’ll take me one day.
They will teach you to listen and talk less over time.
That’s true. I have a middle schooler and a high schooler, and I think about the evolution of our relationship, and it is drastically different but super amazing. I have been forced to learn things that I may not have otherwise, and I am so grateful.
Let’s end on a positive note. What is giving you hope?
There are two things. There’s an opportunity for better male contraception that’s coming along medically. If that comes into play, the less instances that people are dealing with. This situation will go down. There will always be some. The other thing that gives me hope is that there’s a paradigm shift in the world of abortion, and that’s through the PLAN C pill.
Listening to some stories that happened in Latin America and Mexico, I realized that the experience of going through a procedure with the pills is like night and day from the procedure of going to a clinic physically. It’s so much easier for women to go through that and their families, and they can do it privately. What I think is going to happen, or what I’m pretty sure is happening is access to these pills is allowing everybody that needs to take it with a lot of help, so their lives are not being as damaged as I perceive that they might be damaged by these laws. That gives me hope that people’s real problems may not be as bad as they look on paper.
It was so funny when you shared your answers with us, and you said male contraception. We just assume because this sounds like it has been that it’s the responsibility of women to carry that torch. It’s like, “No, medical technology figured out a way, and it could be for male contraception.” Hopefully, we’ll see some money and research put in that direction because we’re probably going to need it in America sooner rather than later.
That mindset shift is something that is clearly needed, and this is a mutual responsibility for no other reason than that.
I’ve been reading that in Texas that requests for vasectomies have been going through the roof. Like what you’re speaking to, men are realizing that they need to be a part of this as well. That’s one way that they’re being a part of that family planning process.
Unless you’re kept from the information flow, and we have communities that are purposely kept from information flow, as both of you know. If you’re pretty well communicated with males and females, you’re working hard to avoid the situation more than ever now. There’s an unintended consequence of the laws. You’re trying the best you can to not get there.
Any last thoughts, Nichole, before we move on to our Attention Mentions?
I don’t have any. I’m grateful for this conversation. I have to admit, Scott, when we were planning this out, I don’t think either of us imagined that we would speak to a man about abortion.
Once again, we’re like, “A man.”
How smart of you. Your instincts are excellent.
I’m grateful that we are having this conversation because we were talking about the importance of this being a mutual conversation that everybody’s willing to engage in and has been absolutely important. The only way that we’re going to see what we want to be reflected in our politics is great.
Let’s move to our Attention Mentions where we mentioned something that has our attention. Who’s got one?
I’m prepped because I read your blog. I knew I was going to need one of these guys, so you’re not able to surprise me like your other guests. I have two real quick. There’s a book I’m reading called The Art of More by Michael Brooks. It’s the history of math, and math is what changed civilization. It created travel, accounting, and everything that we have now. It’s an amazing spin on things. The reason why it’s called The Art of More is that people can’t naturally count past three unless they take some Math classes.
Mondays are my library day, so I’m going to see if I can find that. What’s your second one?
The second one, we watched the movie Amsterdam. It’s all fictional except it’s based on a true story. There was a Brigadier General, Smedley Butler, back in the 1930s. There was a whole plot of businessmen that tried to get him to step in as a dictator of the United States like Mussolini because they were copying Mussolini. He was the leader of the veterans at the time. He said no, and he went to Congress and gave a big speech about how there was this big plot to overthrow the government, and he stopped it. I was like, “Wow, that’s amazing.”
I have not heard that story.
Nichole, what do you have?
It’s one that I’m like, “Is this what I want to share?” I watched this show, there are only two episodes out called Will Trent. It’s an ABC show. I watch it on Hulu. It’s this detective who’s dyslexic and reads crime scenes well. He’s very Southern. It takes place in Georgia and Atlanta. I will admit I was super drawn in. I’m curious to see if I still continue to be drawn in. It’s Will Trent. It’s an ABC show.
My attention to mention, I already mentioned it in the show, but I’ll mention it again. I would encourage folks who want to learn more about abortion to listen to the Slate Slow Burn podcast, specifically the Roe v. Wade series that they did. It was fascinating. They talked so much about the history and the work that went into the Roe verse Wade opinion. It was so well done. I would steer folks in that direction. One more thing, Scott. Tell us what you recommend people follow to learn more about this.
I have one that changed my mindset, and it was one of the New York Times ones, but it’s called The Mexican Model of Abortion Rights. I highly recommend anybody to listen to this one. It’s part of The Daily, which is the New York Times famous podcast. It explains how Mexico and Latin America went about it completely differently and have been quite successful with it.
We got lots of content for our readers to go forth with and educate themselves.
If they follow you, what will they see there?
If they follow me, you’ll see all my old videos, which are definitely worth watching if you want to go through a lot of content. They’re pretty short. Most of them are five minutes long or something. I haven’t posted a lot since the election because I was taken aback by how little abortion moved the Texas needle. Now it’s different on the national needle.
In my mind, I realized that what I was doing was interesting for myself, but I wasn’t sure it was actually making a difference. I’ve been pausing and rethinking some other threads on how to come back at it again. If you look at my Instagram, you’ll see those videos. I enjoyed putting them in there and a lot of people have said they like them.
It is, @LetsTalkAboutAbortionInTX. That’s the handle.
We appreciate the work that you’ve done and the videos you’ve put up there. I found them very helpful. Thank you again for your time, for sharing your journey with us, and for where you’ve landed on this important topic. Sometimes, it’s nice to know how someone else has found their path and know that we’re all figuring things out as we go and hopefully, working towards bettering the lives of Texans in the end.
Thank you so much for having me.
- @LetsTalkAboutAbortionInTexas – Instagram
- Paxton Smith – YouTube
- Texas Right to Life
- Texas Alliance for Life
- Chris Tackett – Past episode
- Slate Podcast
- Slow Burn Series – Slate Podcast Episode
- The Girls Who Went Away
- The Art of More
- The Mexican Model of Abortion Rights – The Daily Past Episode
About Scott White
I am a 4th G Texan living in Grapevine Texas along with my lovely wife and family pets. We have three adult daughters. For 32 years I was an IT Consultant with Accenture retiring in 2022. About 8 months ago, I begin researching, learning, and posting videos about abortion in Texas to try to really understand this issue and engage others in the conversation. This is one of my many hobbies and interest.