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Photo by Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue

After Politico published a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, it took only nine days for Gov. Greg Abbott to remind us he doesn’t actually give a damn about babies’ lives.

On Thursday, Abbott’s office released a statement complaining about the Biden administration for providing baby formula to immigrants at holding facilities at the border during a nationwide shortage. Abbott claimed, “This is yet another one in a long line of reckless, out-of-touch priorities from the Biden administration when it comes to securing our border and protecting Americans.”

Side note: This is the same statement that opens with the words, “Children are our most vulnerable, precious Texans and deserve to be put first.” Abbott really must be flexible to shove his own foot so far down his throat like that in one sitting.

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Before getting into the obvious reasons why Abbott’s message is appalling, let’s first clarify something: This practice isn’t reckless at all. The federal government is actually required by law to provide baby formula and other infant care supplies to migrants in holding facilities (see: the Flores Settlement Agreement of 1997). If Trump supplied the gruel, Abbott would be saying it was a great example of a demigod taking pity upon mere mortals (and the governor would probably have to take a smoke break afterwards too).

Baby formula is a lifesaving resource. Breastfeeding is not always an option, like if the mother can’t produce milk (say, because of poor nutrition and stress from traveling a long distance and then being held in a detention facility), or when babies are lactose intolerant and need special formulas. Extending life-giving necessities to immigrants with no other options is the absolute minimum of human decency –– especially in an age when sometimes it feels like there’s not enough decency to go around.

Abbott’s desperation to find a target for conservative vitriol likely stems from his awareness that both Republicans and Democrats are questioning his leadership — the Dems for, well, everything and the R’s for his weakness and ineffectualness. None of this justifies vilifying infants and encouraging xenophobia and racism.

Abbott’s belief that some babies deserve to live more than others is also anything but pro-life. In an ideal world, Texans from all parties would hold Abbott accountable for his blatant cruelty, but that’s about as likely as Ken Paxton backing out of his contract with Lucifer, so don’t count on it.

Also, I may have taken only one foreign policy class in college, but since when was our “border security” contingent on immigrant babies not being given formula? Legalese can be confusing, so maybe the law is just really funky like that, but what’s far more likely is that Abbott’s complaint is just poorly disguised dogshit with an American flag stamped into it for emphasis.

The backdrop of women’s reproductive rights hanging in the balance makes the governor’s statement particularly pointed. As women across the nation grieve and fight to be recognized as fully human under the law, Abbott is reminding Texans what the GOP actually cares about: votes.

Methodist minister David Barnhart perhaps best characterized what “pro-life” really means to people like Abbott. He said unborn fetuses are easy to defend politically because they don’t expect anything from politicians. They’re just an idea — the human equivalent of kicking a can down the street to be dealt with later. Once a baby is born, Republicans take the laissez-faire approach: not funding childcare programs, maternity leave, welfare services, CHIP, housing, or any of the other scary, super-expensive things that come with raising children.

The GOP can then go back to ignoring the systemic racism that will follow Black babies for the rest of their lives. They can avoid talking about how they’ll seek to control a baby girl’s body once she gets old enough to recognize her bodily autonomy. God forbid we do anything to help the babies who try to change their pronouns later on. And to hell with the brown babies in low-income migrant communities who are jeered at by angry whites while their baby formula is held for ransom by a wealthy, petty white man with nothing to lose but votes.

It’s the easiest route to martyrdom for any career politician who never has to worry about getting pregnant.

Perhaps a staunch pro-life Texan wouldn’t care about Abbott’s words about immigrant babies. Maybe people are so happy to live with their own hypocrisy that it won’t bother them to see a self-proclaimed Christian promoting hatred and turning humanitarianism into a political sin, but if we as a state don’t shut down this xenophobic fearmongering once and for all, we’ll not only lose our decency. We’ll also lose our humanity entirely.

 

This column reflects the opinions of the editorial board and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. Submissions will be edited for factuality, clarity, and concision.

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