Single Parenthood & The “Every Life Matters” Argument

Rick Perry has caused a bit of a scene since the fantastic filibuster of Senator Wendy Davis on Tuesday and went on record while speaking at a National Right to Life meeting held yesterday. In it, he used Senator Davis (though refusing to name her and instead using the pronoun “she” repeatedly) as his example to suggest that her life mattered to her mother and that her children’s lives matter to her as a mom, too. It’s an old argument and one that is trotted out to singularly discuss unborn (no, not pre-born) lives.


Just as that’s the argument from the religious Right in contenting that “every life matters” as suggested by Governor Perry, the liberal Left surmises that the life of the mother and of unwanted children ought to matter, too. One of the funniest tweets I saw after the filibuster’s outcome was still hanging in the balance came from someone I didn’t know and that I, unfortunately, failed to screen-capture. The gist of it was that in un-funding Planned Parenthood and closing abortion clinics makes every Republican responsible in adopting all the unwanted children.

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In his speech, which you can see here, Governor Perry says:

In fact, 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.

This part, especially: “she was a single mother herself”. It’s interesting how he uses that to somehow blame her for actually knowing her own life and is used as an accusation. The remainder of it is simply a finger-wagging in her direction which fails to completely give her enormous credit for GRADUATING FROM LAW SCHOOL.

Not only is he bringing up what he considers her difficult circumstances, he brings up her mother’s difficult circumstances. I guess we’re going to go way back there, huh Govnah? In doing so, what the Governor is doing is suggesting that it’s hard to be a single mother. Not a single parent as is sometimes the case and for that I’m going to give him a pass because he is speaking to a particular case even if he doesn’t name her. This is something to which I am qualified to speak and while the bulk of the conversations I have had over the last few decades in raising my daughter by myself centers around the question “How did you do it alone?” there is another missing piece of the dialogue about her absent, abandoning father.

How often, I have wondered, was he forced to respond to the question of my daughter’s life mattering? How many times was he challenged of taking responsibility for her life and how, as Perry says, “difficult” it was? When do we get around to the question of forcing teen dads and absent fathers to take care of the life they helped to create? In my experience, not enough. In fact, when I got pregnant his entire family MOVED OUT OF STATE. It was hard to locate him and get child support because he spent years on the run. Child Services constantly told me they couldn’t find him and didn’t know where he was. When we started using the Internet to search for people and Mallory was 16 years old, she put his name in a search engine and found him in a day. Even with all that time passing his excuse, to me, was that he didn’t want to pay child support and didn’t have money.

“You don’t have money?” I asked him incredulously. “I’ll tell you about NOT HAVING MONEY. When your electricity gets turned off and you don’t have enough gas to get to work and 2/3 of your paycheck goes to child care…then you don’t have money.” It was a futile conversation about how much her life mattered to him and was reduced to money. Pretty much the same thing that the state of Texas is saying to the women who live there.

I’ll admit to finding Senator Davis a new heroine of mine for her willingness to stand up, literally and figuratively, for women in Texas. But I also find myself in single motherhood solidarity with her as well. We both struggled and went to college and earned degrees while raising children. Our lives, during those times, mattered, too. Our well-being mattered, our mental health mattered, our being able to physically go to school and work and run around after children by ourselves mattered. Planned Parenthood, for many single mothers like me, were the stand-in for the absent fathers who failed to help care for their children and put our health at risk since the bulk of our money went to caring for a child single-handedly.

Governor Perry ought to go all in and let his voting constituents know when he plans on helping those mothers. I’d argue, having used Planned Parenthood for health care services and birth control, that every life does not matter to him. Certainly not the single mothers he so clearly ignores.

You can donate to Senator Wendy Davis’ campaign (for which I hope she runs for and wins Texas Governor) here.

You can donate to Planned Parenthood here.

Source photo credit

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