By James Moore
In our political age, compromise has become a pejorative term. Graciousness and consideration are rarities in relationships and the public comportment of our leaders, including those who follow their political dogma. We are arrayed against each other and the volleys we fire to diminish opposition, instead wound the constitutional notion of a “more perfect union.” Tribal advantages in America are now considerably more important than commonalities and the greater good. We can no longer agree on what is best for our country as, plank by plank, we tear our house down. Courts constantly tell us we are wrong about our rights.
If this is not our fault, where do we assign blame? There can be no question Americans see the road their country is traveling, and the darkness rising in the distance. Down here in Texas, we have been modeling the dissolution of democracy for more than two decades. Government has become a process of control instead of service. The people in office have been given their roles by wealthy donors and legislative and executive constraints placed on voting. Participation in democracy now requires greater effort and delivers fewer results. Citizens have been insidiously convinced their vote changes nothing and the electoral process works only for those who have vast sums of money. They have learned that connections formulate policy, not consensus.
The wider nation is learning from Texas by bad example. Our laws are dehumanizing women with edicts regarding their personal body autonomy. Neighbors and strangers are empowered to spy on pregnant women and report any soul who might give them assistance in acquiring abortion services. A problem pregnancy is compounded with additional challenges from external conservative moralities, usually driven by religious fervor. Our Texas laws do not allow a woman to be charged with a crime for ending a pregnancy, but a friend or lover or parent who helped facilitate can be sued and forced to pay $10,000 fines for each instance. Physicians, however, in many instances, can end up spending their lives in prison if they provide unauthorized abortions, and what is “authorized” is unclear in the law. Health care gets redefined as murder. Texas had about 50,000 abortions annually before the new law, and last year saw only 74. The power of fear and intimidation is a wondrous horror to behold.
The next inevitable step was the demonization of women. Language being used to create even harsher regulations in rural Texas has begun to refer to women seeking abortions as “human traffickers.” The construct is that women traveling the state’s roads to New Mexico, where abortion is legal, are moving a human, which is actually a fetus, against its will. Sane observers would insist that a fetus does not have a will. A less-than-sane perspective, however, emerged from the troubled mind of Mark Lee Dickson, a man who describes himself as a 38-year-old virgin and serves as a pastor at an East Texas church. A Dickson initiative created the “sanctuary cities for the unborn,” a movement to ban abortion within specific communities. A recent count indicates 50 such ordinances have been passed locally in Texas, and about 70 total, nationwide.
Dickson, who was in Washington, D.C. when the January 6th riots happened and believes Trump won the 2020 election, is not finished with his anti-abortion campaign in Texas, or beyond. Wearing his black baseball cap backwards and traveling the backroads of the American Outback, Dickson has convinced a half dozen municipalities and counties in the state to outlaw using their roadways when traveling to get an abortion. Six other cities and counties had already passed his sanctuary city ordinances prohibiting the procedure. The legal penalties are unclear in terms of enforcement for local governments and the passage appears designed to create more fear and intimidation. Dickson, though, has been helping candidates running for local offices when the incumbents do not support his fervent religious convictions regarding abortion.
Constitutionally, a right to travel cannot be restricted, and any enforcement or case arising out of such a local law might quickly rise to the docket of the conservative U.S. Supreme Court, and language protecting rights could be profoundly sundered. The outcome, though, already in effect, is to turn women into commodities to be spirited by night along ranch and farm roads in the direction of relief from problems pregnancies. They become, by virtue of discrimination over their condition, almost inanimate objects, no different, in some regards, than the illegal moonshine raced in the trunks of fast cars through the Tennessee and Kentucky mountains during the prohibition era. In Texas, and increasingly across the U.S., pregnant women are being treated as a kind of non-human contraband, forced to evade laws like they were riding with whiskey runners down the Thunder Road.
The oppression of women is spreading. Dickson’s fevered dream is catching on in locales where women would neither seek abortion nor pass through en route to services. In the Little River Valley on the Western edge of the Texas Blackland Prairie and the Post Oak Savanna, a town of around 2000 residents passed an ordinance to stop abortion and the transport of “human traffickers,” which, by design, included pregnant women. The language adopted by the Little River-Academy city council members, which originated in Dickson’s mouth, said no person could be transported on their roads for an “immoral purpose,” and that included abortion. The Little River ordinance will have little impact – since women are unlikely to seek services in the community, and there are no criminal penalties, though, at some point, if logic keeps slipping, we may end up with a “Driving While Pregnant” criminal code.
It’s hard to believe any of this is happening and it’s equally impossible to think it could get worse, but it can. These are the types of trends that can turn into movements when not checked by more humane ideologies. A national law making any abortion illegal is not improbable, and seems likely to happen if Trump regains the White House and conservatives take control of congress. The Texas State Board of Education, meanwhile, has ordered changes in textbooks that re-frame the history of slavery and include creationism in public school teachings. We have already banned 625 books in Texas, and places that begin banning books end up banning people. Our police will soon operate under a new Texas law that allows officers to decide who might be an illegal immigrant and arrest them without probable cause.
The thunder down that road grows louder and draws closer every day, and a storm will follow, if Texans and Americans do not end the repression of basic human rights. We have before. We can again.
James Moore is the New York Times bestselling author of “Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential,” three other books on Bush and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, as well as two novels, and a biography entitled, “Give Back the Light,” on a famed eye surgeon and inventor. His newest book will be released mid- 2023. Mr. Moore has been honored with an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his documentary work and is a former TV news correspondent who has traveled extensively on every presidential campaign since 1976.
He has been a retained on-air political analyst for MSNBC and has appeared on Morning Edition on National Public Radio, NBC Nightly News, Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, CBS Evening News, CNN, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Hardball with Chris Matthews, among numerous other programs. Mr. Moore’s written political and media analyses have been published at CNN, Boston Globe, L.A. Times, Guardian of London, Sunday Independent of London, Salon, Financial Times of London, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. He also appeared as an expert on presidential politics in the highest-grossing documentary film of all time, Fahrenheit 911, (not related to the film’s producer Michael Moore).
His other honors include the Dartmouth College National Media Award for Economic Understanding, the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television News Directors’ Association, the Individual Broadcast Achievement Award from the Texas Headliners Foundation, and a Gold Medal for Script Writing from the Houston International Film Festival. He was frequently named best reporter in Texas by the AP, UPI, and the Houston Press Club. The film produced from his book “Bush’s Brain” premiered at The Cannes Film Festival prior to a successful 30-city theater run in the U.S.
Mr. Moore has reported on the major stories and historical events of our time, which have ranged from Iran-Contra to the Waco standoff, the Oklahoma City bombing, the border immigration crisis, and other headlining events. His journalism has put him in Cuba, Central America, Mexico, Australia, Canada, the UK, and most of Europe, interviewing figures as diverse as Fidel Castro and Willie Nelson. He has been writing about Texas politics, culture, and history since 1975, and continues with political opinion pieces for CNN and regularly at his Substack newsletter: “Texas to the World.”
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!
Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.
You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969