Texas Right to Life was recently the subject of a libelous Parish Advisory issued by the political arm of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB). In an effort to slander Jill Wolfskill, the Texas Right to Life endorsed candidate for Texas State House District 13, and the major conservative organizations supporting her, Ben Leman has echoed the false claims by TCCB in their politically-motivated Parish Advisory. As practicing Catholics, we were stunned and disappointed that TCCB’s political arm would make such a vitriolic condemnation of the largest, oldest, and only statewide Pro-Life organization in Texas.
The assertions of the TCCB are absolutely, demonstrably false.
While officially non-sectarian, Texas Right to Life has exhibited leadership consistent with Catholic theology on Pro-Life issues since the organization’s legal incorporation in 1973. While we recognize the role TCCB’s lobbyist has in advocating for certain legislation on behalf of Texas Catholic bishops, TCCB lacks canonical authority to repudiate the Life-saving work of Texas Right to Life. Although Texas Right to Life has never spoken on behalf of the Catholic Church (or any denomination), the mission and goals of Texas Right to Life are in line with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and with the longstanding Christian tradition of protecting all innocent human Life.
Catholic Teaching on Medical Ethics
Recently, the plight of the English baby, Alfie Evans, enthralled the world because of the sickening disregard for human Life demonstrated by the British hospital and government. Sadly, Alfie died five days after being forcibly removed from his ventilator. While Pope Francis advocated for the right of Alfie’s parents to seek further medical treatment, the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales abominably sided with the British Courts.
Such a disagreement elucidates a common occurrence: The opinions and policies promulgated by some of the conferences of bishops often differ radically from the Vatican and are not to be taken as absolute truth, particularly since these conferences of bishops are political administrative entities without canonical authority. In fact, what happened in England is a too common occurrence in Texas. The “ten-day law” of the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA) grants hospitals and doctors unilateral authority to remove life-sustaining treatment from patients with a mere ten days notice, which has sped the death of hundreds of patients in Texas. TCCB vilified Texas Right to Life in the Parish Advisory for working to reform the draconian law that is worse than any statute in Britain. While TCCB’s lobbyist wholeheartedly agrees with the bishops in Britain in that doctors and hospitals should have the final authority to make life-ending decisions for patients, Pope Francis’ defense of Alfie mirrors Texas Right to Life’s patient advocacy efforts in which we work to transfer patients to willing providers in more appropriate care settings.
Moreover, Section 2278 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly affirms the right of patients and their families to make appropriate medical judgements within the correct moral framework:
2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected. (emphasis added)
In attempts to reform or overturn TADA, Texas Right to Life, acting in concordance with the Natural Law, has demonstrated adherence to Section 2278, espousing policies that prioritize the wishes and directives of the patients to continue treatment. Contrarily, TCCB’s lobbyist supports TADA, which nullifies the right of the patient or his family to make medical decisions. Rebuking Texas Right to Life for opposing TADA is absurd, not to mention a warped misrepresentation of Texas Right to Life’s position. The political arm of TCCB and Ben Leman have enfeebled themselves by attacking Texas Right on this front.
Catholic Teaching on Abortion
The political arm of TCCB has also actually attacked Texas Right to Life for being too ardent in the defense of preborn Life. Texas Right to Life has led the effort to enact Life-saving legislation that makes appreciable efforts in destroying the faulty foundation upon which Roe v. Wade was fabricated. Texas Right to Life spearheaded the passage of the Sonogram Law in 2011 and the Preborn Pain Act in 2013. Both of these provisions have saved the lives of thousands of preborn Texans.
This past year, Texas Right to Life championed the Dismemberment Abortion Ban, a bill banning a gruesome form of abortion in which a living preborn child is torn apart limb from limb while her heart remains beating. Conferences of bishops supported Dismemberment Abortion Bans in their respective states, including Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The measure passed with bipartisan support in both chambers of the Texas Legislature despite active opposition of the ban by a small, local organization extolled by TCCB, Texas Alliance for Life (TAL).
These prudent, incremental reforms work toward achieving the ultimate goal of overturning Roe. Although vocal on many other issues, TCCB’s lobbyist was silent on this measure in the capitol but offered letters questioning the prudence of the Dismemberment Abortion Ban and even disparaged Texas Right to Life for supporting the bill. In short, TCCB’s Advisory impugns Texas Right to Life because we are just too Pro-Life.
Texas Right to Life Voter Guides
The last attack in the Advisory from TCCB aims at Texas Right to Life’s political endorsements, or lack thereof, which are largely informed by the votes taken by officeholders. These votes are a tangible indicator of a legislator’s true positions on Pro-Life issues. Often the legislators opposed by Texas Right to Life voted against various Pro-Life bills and amendments.
All votes, including votes from the most recent 2017 Sessions of the Texas Legislature, are featured in the Pro-Life Scorecard on Texas Right to Life’s website. Even with their blatant anti-Life votes, these legislators are often supported by TAL and other groups allied with TCCB. Thus, the Advisory from the political arm of the TCCB appears to be an effort to retain power and influence in Austin rather than an effort to build a Culture of Life and inform parishioners of the truly Pro-Life candidates.
TCCB’s lobbyist and Ben Leman have engaged in calumny against Texas Right to Life; they have taken the odious step of distorting the truth in pursuit of raw power. For over forty years Texas Right to Life has courageously fought for innocent human Life, all human Life, even when doing so is politically unpopular and even when we had to fight alone. Asserting that Texas Right to Life is anti-Catholic is demonstrably false and beneath the bishops of Texas.
Don’t believe Ben Leman’s slanderous comments, founded upon a politically motivated yet unsubstantiated Parish Advisory written by an Austin establishment insider.
Believe in Jill Wolfskill, who is running for the Texas House so that she can lend her voice and her vote to the Pro-life majority to protect all innocent human Life. Jill will work to reform the very anti-Life law supported by TCCB’s lobbyist that threatens the lives of hospitalized patients. For House District 13, Jill Wolfskill is the only honest Pro-Lifer.
Yours for Life,
Elizabeth and Jim Graham
Director and President
Texas Right to Life
This letter is proudly paid for by Texas Right to Life.