Rick Perry and the Age Old Right Wing Pro-Life, Pro-Death Penalty Conundrum

perryconfusedThis morning the Texas state legislature, at the direction of Governor Rick Perry, scheduled their second vote in two months on extremely restrictive, and possibly unconstitutional abortion legislation. The driving force behind the proposed legislation is Governor Perry’s so called staunch pro-life stance. The problem, however, is Rick Perry isn’t really pro-life at all. Really he is just a poser who has the audacity to call himself pro-life. Why? Well because since Governor Perry took office in 2000, the state of Texas has executed 301 people. Specifically, between 2000-2012, the state of Texas at the direction of Gov. Perry executed 293 people, and this year to date, the state has executed 8 people so far. In fact, according to Amnesty International:

“In under a dozen years, Texas has killed more than twice as many people in its lethal injection chamber as any other state in the USA has put to death in the three and a half decades since the US Supreme Court allowed executions to resume under new capital laws.”

If Rick Perry were truly pro-life, one would think he would call special legislative sessions to attempt repealing the Texas death penalty statute. Not the case. Moreover, common sense dictates that anyone who has executed a record number of people during their time in office is clearly not pro-life.

Now, many have argued pro-life is obviously a reference to abortion and not to the death penalty. I don’t see it that way. In my mind, pro-life is exactly that, pro-life. Meaning that if you are truly pro-life, you should be against the death penalty as well. Life without parole is always an option for convicted criminals, albeit I am not out to start a death penalty debate in this article. However, if the point of  being pro-life is protecting life, which anti-choice advocates including Governor Perry claim it is, then Governor Perry is doing a horrendous job at it.

Furthermore, a good portion of those who are executed are innocent and exonerated post mortem. If you are actually pro-life you should not want to see anyone executed, especially considering the possibility they could be innocent. For those who are truly pro-life, the mere chance that an innocent person could be executed is enough to make them anti-death penalty. I mean, why do you think the Catholic Church has been staunchly anti-death penalty? It’s because the Catholic Church, unlike Rick Perry, is actually pro-life. True pro-lifers, like Pope John Paul II, simply do not care about the guilt or innocence of a person. What they care about is that person’s life. Moreover, while I may not agree with the Catholic Church on much of anything (including their stance on abortion) the point is, the Catholic Church has it right. They have a consistent ideology, and are truly pro-life. Everyone else, meaning those that are “pro-life,” but are also pro-death penalty, are nothing more than a bunch of hypocrites.

Also, for the record, I should say that on the other side of the coin there is more ideological leeway. Why? Well, because being pro-choice and being anti-death penalty aren’t hypocritical positions like being pro-life and pro-death penalty are. Despite what those on the right may believe, those of us who are pro-choice are NOT pro-abortion, rather we are PRO-CHOICE. Meaning we are for women having the freedom, liberty and privacy to decide when life begins and to make medical decisions about their reproductive health without interference from the government. As Justice O’Connor so eloquently put it:

“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”

If this is unclear to you, it means that at the very core of our constitutional rights, specifically the right to liberty, is the right for all of us to decide when life begins. If the government were to dictate when life begins, they would be in violation of our constitutionally protected right to liberty. Therefore, because our Constitution gives us the freedom and liberty to decide when life begins, it is up to each and every one of us to decide for ourselves whether we consider an 8 cell embryo to be a “baby” or merely a collection of cells. With that being said, if one decides that an 8 cell embryo is not in fact a “baby,” then no hypocrisy follows from that person being pro-choice and anti-death penalty. Additionally, even if one decides that an 8 cell embryo is in fact a “baby,” and would personally never seek abortion, they can still be pro-choice if they believe that other people should have the freedom and liberty to make that decision on their own. Thus, logically speaking, one can easily be pro-choice and anti-death penalty. On the other hand, as I said already and will say again, logically speaking, one simply cannot be pro-life and pro-death penalty while claiming to have a consistent ideology.

Ultimately, all of this goes back to the same point I keep repeating. Those that are truly pro-life (the Catholic Church being my example) care not about who is guilty or who is innocent. They care simply about life. They are against abortion and against the death penalty because they are pro-life. After executing a record 301 people, Rick Perry undeniably cannot say the same.

Ilyssa Fuchs

Ilyssa Fuchs is an attorney, freelance writer, and activist from New York City, who holds both a juris doctor and a political science degree. She is the founder of the popular Facebook page Politically Preposterous and a blog of the same name. Follow Ilyssa on Twitter @IlyssaFuchs, and be sure to check out her archives on Forward Progressives as well!


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