Parents Talk Back by Aisha Sultan

Practicing What You Preach

When a public official takes issue with something I’ve written, they might email, call or contact an editor if they feel particularly aggrieved.

Missouri’s Health Director Dr. Randy Williams took a more unusual approach. Last year, I wrote a column criticizing his department’s effort to track the menstrual cycles of women seeking services at the one remaining Planned Parenthood in Missouri. After reading it, he dropped off a book and a handwritten note for me at my office. It’s a book written by a conservative Republican about loving your enemies.

I’m not going to get into the merits of the book. Suffice it to say that the author wrote a 217-page manifesto decrying the contempt in political rhetoric and never once mentioned how the current occupant of the White House has taken nastiness in public discourse to new lows. It’s kind of like writing a book about the obesity epidemic and leaving out the role of sugar.

At any rate, I read the entire thing.

Since Williams never specified what he found objectionable in my previous column, I’m going to assume by his choice of book and the note quoting Martin Luther King Jr., “I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate,” that perhaps he confused my criticism with hate or contempt toward him personally.

Rest assured, Randy, I don’t hate you.

I do, however, hate what you have been trying to do to women in this state.

When I think about the repeated attempts by the Republicans in Missouri to take away a woman’s legal right to an abortion, I also think about the sanctity of life.

I think about the life of the college student who called me to take her to the hospital after she had been raped multiple times during a spring break trip. I think about standing by her hospital bed and seeing the fear in her eyes that one of her rapists might have impregnated her. I think about a friend who had a pregnancy scare involving a man from a very conservative family. I remember her shock when his vocally “pro-life” parents offered to pay for her abortion. I think about the young woman who told me she had to leave her parents’ house after she found out she was pregnant. The condom her boyfriend was using had broken, and he offered no help to her. She became homeless -- going from one friend’s house to another -- working a minimum-wage job trying to save up money for the abortion she needed to have any kind of chance at escaping extreme poverty.

These women’s lives matter.

I teach my children the importance and universality of the Golden Rule. If it was your daughter or wife in such a traumatic and difficult situation, how would you want her treated?

Many of us are horrified that our daughters might grow up with fewer rights over their own bodies than we had.

Like you, I’m a person of faith. But I would never seek to impose my religious beliefs about a theological issue on women whose own lives may hang in the balance.

I can respect that getting an abortion is against your religious beliefs.

Thankfully, you will never need to get one.

If I saw the same fervor from state officials toward making sure the 100,000 children dropped from Medicaid in our state had access to health care, it would go a long way toward proving their “pro-life” consistency.

Here’s an area for common ground. Many of us who support a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions also care deeply that all children in our state can go to a doctor, and get medical treatment and medicine when they need it.

I’m all in with you when you want to apply pro-life beliefs there.

You mentioned in your note that you have received death threats and ad hominem attacks in your role. I know how that feels. It’s fascinating to see what the people who call for civility are perfectly willing to overlook from their own side.

If you ever want to discuss the book, feel free to stop by and chat.