Can we talk about rights for a moment? This is not a column about abortion, voting or masks. I’ll mention them, but I’m trying to understand things as today’s conversations get fuzzier and fuzzier. The Texas Legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott recently passed a law that made abortion in Texas extremely difficult. This new Texas heartbeat law invites others to get involved in a woman’s pregnancy, literally making this very personal decision someone else’s business. While legal abortions are available in nearby states, at least six other legislatures are planning similar laws. Neighboring states already are seeing an influx of Texas women seeking services, so this is not fewer procedures, just less access and more hurdles. The Texas law made no allowance or exception for rape or incest, and it seems the governor didn’t fully understand the enormity of his actions. He said, “… and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.” If he does that, it would be a miracle; but he won’t just be working tirelessly, he’ll be working to infinity and beyond. Though I don’t know every woman on earth, no woman I know uses abortion as a form of birth control, nor does she make the decision lightly to end a pregnancy. News reports describe how poor women and rape victims will be most adversely affected because many don’t realize at six weeks that they’re pregnant. This new law, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, hampers the most personal of decisions a woman can make. Whether we agree personally with her choice is irrelevant — the law protects her body, her choice, her right — we don’t have a dog in this fight. Texas also took steps to stop voter fraud that didn’t exist and banned drive-through and 24- hour voting. Legislators also blocked promotion of voting by mail and reduced the number of drop boxes. If Texans didn’t have real problems to solve, I could see politicians working to keep folks away from the polls. I guess they need reminding: we, the people, persist, and come hail or high water, we vote, in spite of this foolishness. Meanwhile, teachers and students are overrunning hospitals and intensive care units as COVID-19 rages on as non-vaccinated individuals continue to campaign for the right not to get vaccinated or wear masks. Scientists say — key words here — things are only going to get worse as we resume “normal” activities — weekend football games, going out to eat and shop, visiting our grandparents — without the vaccinations, all in the name of individual rights. Yes, we have the right and responsibility to protect our children and loved ones from harm, but our healthcare workers are overworked and overwhelmed by an increase in COVID cases. The emotional toll COVID-19 is taking on nurses, doctors, paramedics and hospital sanitation workers may be irreversible. Almost every news story describes the shortage of nurses, ICU beds, ventilators and the havoc unvaccinated people are causing as they are dying and denying the scourge of this dreaded disease. COVID is real. Here are three things to remember: (1) Getting vaccinated and wearing a mask is a no-brainer. The life you save may be your own. (2 When legislators and governors make oppressive laws to “protect” us, they really must protect women and their bodies, children, communities, the vulnerable — everyone. (3) Let’s make sure legislators are solving real problems (healthcare, unemployment and affordable housing), not being and creating problems. Rights are precious and fragile. They protect us and help us stay in our lane. Oppressive laws do not.
CYNTHIA A. BOND HOPSON, Ph.D., of Cordova is a native Tennessean, educator, author and mentor. She and her husband, Roger, lived in Paris twice. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook@drbondhopson.