Commentary Family

Losing My Lege: Breastfeeding for ‘Pro-Life’ Republicans, But Not for Texas Teachers

Andrea Grimes

Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican state senator from Brenham, says she "has a fundamental respect for human life, from conception until natural death." Yet just last week, she voted against a bill that would help teachers have break times and dedicated areas to pump breast milk to feed babies.

Losing My Lege is a weekly column about the goings-on in and around the Austin capitol building during the 84th Texas legislature.

One of the things that makes it so complicated to be an advocate for reproductive rights in Texas is the fact that so many “pro-life” lawmakers who are working to make abortion illegal are doing so much at the same time to ensure that Texans can raise the healthy babies and families they long to have by ensuring that parents—moms, especially—have the legal protections and resources they need to be able to raise their kids.

I mean this state is just lousy with benefits for kids and families: oodles of paid leave for parents caring for sick kids, sick family members or sick themselves, a totally equitable public education system, and our pregnant folks can expect nothing but great maternal outcomes.

Oh, wait—no, I’ve got that all backwards. Texas doesn’t mandate any paid workers’ leave, and its school finance system is so fubar the courts don’t even know what to do with it. The state’s maternal mortality rate quadrupled under Republican Gov. Rick Perry, and outcomes are especially bad for Texans of color.

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In one particularly glaring example of the situation, Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican state senator from Brenham, says she “has a fundamental respect for human life, from conception until natural death.” Yet just last week, she voted against a bill, currently languishing in the state senate, that would help salaried elementary, middle, and high school teachers have break times and dedicated areas to pump breast milk to feed babies.

I mean, I’m sure Kolkhorst is still “a proud Christian who is always willing to do her part to fight the culture of death that threatens Texas and the nation.” She’s just apparently not willing to risk the unthinkable—ensuring that public school districts make accommodations for breastfeeding teachers—to do so.

Kolkhorst herself recognizes that the breastfeeding issue is important, but evidently not enough to extend the privilege to people who aren’t privileged to be Lois Kolkhorst. In response to the story of a Texas teacher who had to quit her job because the school wouldn’t accommodate her breastfeeding needs, basically forcing her to choose between going to work and feeding her kid, Sen. Kolkhorst told the Texas Tribune:

I’m a female who actually was a working mom and had the same issues and was able to be able to continue to breastfeed for my children while I was working … I know that there are situations that we hear about that don’t go so well, but I’m hoping that local school districts can come up with their own policies regarding this issue.

I mean yes, school districts are already legally required to make breastfeeding accommodations for non-salaried employees, so it seems like it wouldn’t really be that big of a deal to require them to also make breastfeeding accommodations for salaried employees. But y’all have to understand that this is one very slippery slope: One minute, teachers can pump breast milk to feed their babies while at the same time keeping jobs that enable them to care for those babies, and the next minute, Texans are living in a scorched socialist landscape where everyone is forced to have an abortion and drive a Toyota Prius.

Really, though, let’s be reasonable. I’m not a baby expert, but I do know that babies need to eat, and an eating baby is almost certainly a live baby! So it sort of follows that, like, allowing parents to feed their babies fights a culture of death. But like I said, I’m not a baby expert.

And I wouldn’t want to tell Lois Kolkhorst how to live her life. I mean, sure, it sucks that some people—public school teachers who have some kind of bizarre ax to grind about trying to literally keep their children alive while making far less than most of their counterparts across the United States—haven’t able to work and breastfeed at the same time the way Lois Kolkhorst was, but is it Lois Kolkhorst’s responsibility to do something about it, as a “pro-life” lawmaker with a fundamental respect for human life, from conception until natural death?

Of course not. Lois Kolkhorst already got hers, so the rest of us are on our own. Maybe we can steal her bootstraps when she’s not looking.

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