Having the 'Texas talk' with adolescent girls is now vitally important

Samuel C. Damren

“The talk” has been a rite of passage in communities of color in America for decades.

The participants are parents and their adolescent children, primarily male adolescents. The topic is how to survive an encounter with the police, with primary focus on traffic stops. In practice, “the talk” builds on prior age-appropriate conversations between parents and their children about police incidents occurring in the community or that the children become aware of from media reports or rumors.

White parents generally don’t have these conversations with their children. Police killings of white teen-agers after a traffic stop are rare. 

The rules imparted in “the talk” go something like this. First, when the car you are driving or riding in is stopped by the police be calm and respectful toward the officers. Second, roll down all the windows – even in the winter – and turn off the ignition. Third, everyone in the car should make sure that their hands are not in their pockets, purse or backpack and that their hands remain visible at all times. Fourth, everyone should put down their cellphones and not reach for them or anything else  during the stop. Fifth, the driver should tell the officer where his or her license, registration and proof of  insurance are before reaching for them. Sixth, NEVER mouth off to the cop.

“The talk” gets more complicated when questions about searching the car, “what have you been up  to” and “do you have a weapon” are posed by the police officer or if the officer threatens to arrest anyone. This commentary is not about those complications. It is about a new version of “the talk” that  parents of adolescent girls are going to need to have with their daughters in Texas.

The “Texas talk” is not about police racism. It is about what an adolescent girl needs to know in order to protect herself from being forced by state government to bear and raise an unwanted child.

For nearly 50 years in America, women had the Constitutional right under Roe v. Wade to abort an unwanted pregnancy during the first two trimesters. That rule was changed in Texas through the enactment of Senate Bill 8, effective September 2021. Under that law, which the Supreme Court of the United States refused to enjoin, abortions cannot be performed as early as after the first six weeks of pregnancy.

If parents elect to be truthful with their daughters about the risks of living in Texas under Senate Bill 8 then they must have the “Texas talk.” They need to have this conversation before their child begins to menstruate and becomes capable of bearing children because that is when the risk begins. The rules to be imparted in the “Texas talk” go something like this.

First, your daughter needs to understand that the rules about sexual intercourse and the consequences have changed. Today, in Texas, if you become pregnant, even as a result of rape, date rape, or when drunk, high, out of bad judgment or adolescent foolishness, you no longer have the choice once a fetal heartbeat is detected to end the pregnancy through an abortion. At that precise moment, you have lost control of your body. 

Second, if your daughter is forced by Senate Bill 8 to bear and raise a child against her wishes, it will be a life-changing event. She will not enjoy the life she otherwise envisioned for herself and that her parents and the potential wanted children in her future would hope that she and they could live. 

Third, the adolescent boy or the man who got her pregnant probably won’t marry her. She probably doesn’t love him in any event and at the time they had sexual intercourse did not think about these consequences. But they apply. The life of a single mother is difficult, financially and otherwise. Raising her child will take up much of the time that your daughter would have anticipated spending on other activities as she grew into adulthood. 

Fourth, you must advise your daughter that you, her parents, have chosen to remain residents of Texas despite the risks that Senate Bill 8 poses to her happiness and future prospects. Here are the reasons – (blank to be filled in and good luck with the daughter’s reaction).

Fifth, you must also advise your daughter that as long as she is a resident of Texas the only sure protection against being forced by the state to bear and raise an unwanted child is for her to have an operation called a tubal ligation which prevents male semen from reaching the eggs in her uterus. The effects of this procedure can sometimes be reversed by later surgery but there is no guarantee. So,having this procedure means that she may never be able to bear children.
But if she has the surgery, she will not be forced to bear and raise an unwanted child by the State of Texas.  

The “Texas talk” gets more complicated when the daughter starts asking questions.

Do I think that many parents will give the “Texas talk” in the upcoming months? No. First, Texans who can afford to send their pregnant daughters to another State to legally abort the pregnancy will not see the need. If that alternative remains legally viable, as it is now, then Senate Bill 8 will simply be another law that persecutes the poor in pursuit of a political agenda while permitting the more affluent to live above the law. 

Second, Texans who can’t afford to send their pregnant daughters out of state for an abortion will likely choose to “kick the can down the road” rather than engage in the painful discussion encompassed by the “Texas talk.” However, once the plight of the many pregnant teen-agers and woman who will be forced to bear and raise unwanted children by Senate Bill 8 comes into full view, the “Texas talk” will become mandatory for all less affluent Texas families. 

Third, over time, affluent Texans who believe they will never be required to give the “Texas talk” may have to reconsider. When their elitist hypocrisy becomes unbearable to the voting public and religious backers of Senate Bill 8, the Texas legislature will undoubtedly enact laws akin to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Based on the right to life of the Texas fetus, those prospective laws will likely demand the return of successfully fleeing pregnant Texas teen-agers and women from the states where they secured freedom from Senate Bill 8.  Alternatively, if the fetus is aborted out of state, those prospective laws will likely codify criminal charges against the mother along with her accomplices wherever they might  reside. 

And yes, the legal issues posed by the prospective Texas Fugitive Mother Act of 202_ will be decided by the United States Supreme Court. It will be the 21st Century version of the Dred Scot Case.

And no, I would not presume to handicap the odds of which way the decision will go.