11 months ago

My unplanned pregnancy, and why Alabama should pass this pro-life bill

What keeps us from sharing our stories? The ones we should tell?

When it comes to the story I shared Wednesday morning with the Alabama House Health Committee regarding what would be the nation’s strongest pro-life law, it’s been fear.

Fear of being misunderstood.

Fear of future assumptions based on past mistakes.

Most of all, fear of causing my oldest daughter any embarrassment or pain.

This is her story, too.

But after long talks over the years and after recently watching the new movie “Unplanned” together, she says I must speak up. That she is proud, not embarrassed. That our story might strengthen one mother. Might help save one life.

My daughter’s maturity humbles me because her life began when I was the opposite – foolish.

I graduated college after years of overachievement that I hoped would lead to what I wanted more than anything: a successful career.

Like many driven young women, I had given almost no thought to motherhood. Maybe one day I’d get married and have a family – one day far in the future.

I moved to Virginia for my first job as a television reporter and continued a successful side hustle as a model and commercial actress. Everything was going better than I had dreamed. My life was filled with hope and anticipation.

But my life was also filled with loneliness and insecurity. With a gnawing desire to be loved and feel wanted.

I believed in abstinence until marriage but my now-husband and I fell short. I found myself taking a pregnancy test.

My heart shattered when I saw the results. The test said someone inside me had started to live, but in a flash, it felt like everything about me had started to die.

Sometimes life requires us to fall on one side or the other of a fence we never noticed before. I was notionally pro-life, but I had not engaged the argument because I had not thought about the argument. It was a topic for someone else, someplace else.

But now it was me, and the last thing I wanted was to be a mother.

I did not receive Planned Parenthood counseling, but I imagine they would have said everything already racing through my mind:

I was only 22-years-old — way too young.

I had everything to lose and nothing to gain.

Why should one mistake define the rest of my life?

Experts say cognitive dissonance is one of the most intolerable mental states – when we believe something is true, we’ll either act in harmony with that belief, change it, or rationalize any deviation from it.

I knew the growing baby inside of me was a human being. What else could she possibly be?

There were also medical realities that overpowered rhetoric — a heartbeat that I heard at my first appointment, fingers and eyes and ears and feet I could see at my second.

I wish I could tell women in crisis pregnancies that becoming a mother is pure bliss. But it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

As my pregnancy progressed, I fell into what I can only describe as months of complete anguish, depression, and despair. I left my job. I sleepwalked into a marriage that I feared was another mistake. I berated myself, constantly asking, “How could you have been so stupid?” I withdrew from everyone, and thought I’d never know happiness again.

It’s hard to write those words knowing what I know now: My husband and my five precious children are my entire world. I wish I were a better writer because it’s impossible for me to adequately describe the all-consuming love I feel for them. Anything that was lost is a laughable pittance, barely worth mentioning compared to all that I’ve gained.

Looking now at my beautiful, artistic, strong, unique, nearly 14-year-old daughter, I can barely fathom how she might have been erased from existence if I’d followed our culture’s advice.

Some abortion rights supporters believe that my daughter was not a person until the moment she emerged from my body. Others believe she may have been at some point, but claim we lack the knowledge of when.

It seems a nightmarish hoax that our society says that during my pregnancy, even when my daughter was clearly alive, growing, able to smile, hear music, feel pain, kick her legs, and even develop to where she could survive outside of me, her fate depended solely on whether I thought she should live or die.

I think in the quiet of our souls, we know that our absurd rationalizations about a “choice” are the only way we can bear the unthinkable truth – that every day, abortion doctors inject unborn human beings with poison, crush their skulls, tear them limb from limb, and vacuum them into the trash.

I went to college with Jessica Coleman, an Ohio woman who later went to prison when she confessed to stabbing her baby shortly after secretly giving birth when she was 15-years-old.

I’ll never forget watching Oprah Winfrey interview the tearful, ashamed inmate who was once my soccer teammate.

How do we make sense of our hypocrisy? If only Jessica had received an abortion that day. If only a doctor, not her, had stabbed her baby the moment before he was born. She would not have gone to prison. Oprah would have commended her for her brave choice.

It’s time to shake ourselves awake.

To Alabama’s lawmakers: It is always better for people to choose what’s right on their own. But some actions are so heinous, so deeply wrong, that we must create laws to prevent them. Pass this bill.

To anyone who calls themselves pro-life but does not give money to crisis pregnancy centers, adoption services, or anything related to supporting life: You are like a Pharisee – heaping heaving burdens on others but refusing to lift a finger yourself. Give.

To men, everywhere: The instinct to protect women and children is written onto your hearts. Rise up. This is not just a woman’s issue. You have every right to fight for the life of another human being, especially ones so defenseless.

And to my sisters carrying an unplanned baby: My heart aches for you. Every life – yours and your baby’s – is valuable. Make the next right choice.

It may be the hardest thing you ever do.

But it will be the best thing you ever do.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at The Alabama Policy Institute. Connect with her at Rachel@alabamapolicy.org and on Instagram @rachelblackmonbryars.

8 hours ago

Livingston, Whatley elected to lead Alabama Space Authority

The Alabama Space Authority this week held a meeting, respectively electing State Senators Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) and Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) as chair and vice-chair of the body.

Both senators, who were appointed by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) to the authority, plan to work diligently towards making Alabama a leader in the space industry, according to a joint release.

The Alabama Space Authority was created in 2017 to promote research and development of new space exploration and spaceport technology; to sponsor conference and business roundtables within the aerospace, aviation and related industries; and to promote activities and industries related to exploration.

The authority includes representatives of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the Alabama Department of Transportation, the governor, the State legislature and other stakeholders and experts.

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Livingston, who recently played a leading role in the creation of the legislature’s Aerospace and Defense Caucus and serves as its chair, stated that the Alabama Space Authority will be looking into how the Yellowhammer State can further improve this industry.

“We are looking into the possibility of the Dream Chaser being able to land in Huntsville,” Livingston said. “This is going to be a great opportunity to look into how the legislature can aide in supporting the aerospace and defense industry in Alabama.”

Whatley added that he was honored to be selected as vice-chair and that space is a growing industry in Alabama.

“I’m proud to be a member … because this is a big deal for our entire state, from Huntsville to Auburn’s aerospace programs and to the robust aircraft manufacturing on the coast. Aerospace is a $12 billion industry and a key component to Alabama’s economy,” Whatley commented.

Livingston concluded by advising he expects to receive an update from the U.S. Space Command and is looking forward to bringing more space industry projects to Alabama.

RELATED: Ainsworth in Huntsville: Alabama is ‘the aerospace capital of the world’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Lewis touts McCutcheon; Brooks touts Trump, his record with space and defense

Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) this week endorsed Chris Lewis in the GOP primary race in the Fifth Congressional District.

The surprise endorsement by McCutcheon caught many in the state off-guard because this race has flown under the radar and polling shows this race, like all of U.S. Representative Mo Brooks’ (R-Huntsville) previous primaries, handily in the bag.

But McCutcheon’s endorsement rightly got the attention of multiple media outlets and observers of Alabama politics with many wondering what this was really all about.

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So when Brooks saw the endorsement and a hostage-style video promoting it by McCutcheon, Brooks responded by highlighting the most coveted endorsement a Republican candidate for any office could get: President Donald Trump.

Brooks told Yellowhammer News:

I have the strong endorsement of President Trump, a man I worked hard with to CUT TAXES on American families and secure America’s borders! In contrast, Chris Lewis has the endorsement of legislator Mac McCutcheon, whose greatest expertise has been RAISING TAXES on struggling Alabama families!

While speaking to WVNN on Friday, Brooks noted that the endorsement on the bounds of support from the space and defense industry is laughable.

“If Mac McCutcheon is saying that Chris Lewis has more support in Research Park, that is categorically false. We have received more support from the state and defense community, vastly, vastly, vastly, vastly more support from the state and defense community than Chris Lewis has,” he told “The Dale Jackson Show.”

Brooks also touted his seniority, and how that plays into serving his district in Washington, D.C.

“The people who engage in space and defense know that my growing seniority on science, space, and technology and on House Armed Services, coupled with more than a hundred occasions in which I’ve been able to get favorable language into legislation that they’ve wanted me to get for the benefit of our country and what we do in the Tennessee Valley,” he added. “They’re my primary support base in Congress: space and defense.”​

My takeaway:

This is all pretty interesting, but the idea that a McCutcheon endorsement on these grounds can overcome the booming North Alabama economy that Brooks has been a part of since being part of the Tea Party-wave in 2010 is false.

The Trump endorsement might make better television and radio spots, and it will definitely help Brooks, but the real issue is that Lewis and McCutcheon can’t point to how Brooks hasn’t served his district well — because he has.

Barring some massive bombshell to follow up this endorsement, a battle of endorsements between Trump and McCutcheon seems like a fight that was over before it started, much like the Brooks/Lewis race.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

11 hours ago

Human clinical study begins at UAB for groundbreaking brain tumor treatment

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) continues to evolve as a worldwide leader in biomedicine, research and innovation.

Incysus Therapeutics, Inc., a Birmingham-based biopharmaceutical company, has now announced the initiation of a Phase 1 clinical study of a novel Drug Resistant Immunotherapy (DRI) technology for the treatment of patients with newly-diagnosed glioblastoma.

This trial is being conducted at UAB and is now active and open for enrollment.

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM or glioblastoma) is a devastating and fast-growing brain tumor that typically results in death within the first 15 months after diagnosis. GBM is inherently resistant to conventional therapy and accounts for approximately 52% of all primary brain tumors.

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A release from the company outlined Incysus’ innovative DRI approach, which seeks to combine conventional chemotherapies with a γδ T cell-based immunotherapy to modify the tumor microenvironment and drive the immune system. By using alkylating agents such as temozolomide, chemotherapy can activate immunity through the upregulation of the DNA damage response (DDR) pathway. A significant challenge is that such chemotherapies also kill the white blood cells needed to drive an immune response. Incysus’ technology “chemo-protects” immune cells to allow them to remain functional while DDR activation creates an immune signal that allows directed killing activity against cancer cells.

Incysus is the first company to use this type of therapy in patients, and the research marks a landmark moment for Incysus, the overall biotech industry in Birmingham and anti-cancer research across the globe.

Dr. L. Burt Nabors, MD, the co-head of neuro-oncology at UAB and the study’s principal investigator, stated, “The initiation of this clinical trial represents a significant milestone towards developing effective immune-based therapies for the treatment of GBM. We are pleased to work with … the team at Incysus to bring this innovative therapy to patients for the first time.”

Further information on the clinical trial is available here.

Incysus is a UAB spinoff company. Its success in the Magic City — and this kind of potentially revolutionary research spearheaded by UAB — is a prime example of why many legislative and industry leaders in the state, especially in the Birmingham area, are calling on Governor Kay Ivey to fund a world-class genomics facility at the university. They argue that the project could make Birmingham the “Silicon Valley of Biomedicine.”

RELATED: Planned UAB genomics project could make Birmingham the ‘Silicon Valley of Biomedicine’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Amendment One puts kids first, politicians last

When Alabamians take the to the polls on Super Tuesday, they will either be concerned with the Democratic nominee for President of the United States or the Republican nominee for the United States Senate. More important to the future of Alabama is a constitutional amendment that would end our current model of a popularly elected state school board in favor of one appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate.

Supporters of Amendment 1 argue that this would be a major step in improving Alabama’s permanent residence at the bottom of the education barrel. As it is currently designed and managed, the state board of education is doing very little to improve the quality of education in the state. Board members are trying, but clearly nothing is working very well. Supporters of the amendment argue a shake up is the best hope for improving education in Alabama. In some respects the argument does not go far enough. That is because the current process creates negative incentives for board members; because they hold their office at the behest of voters, there is every incentive for them to avoid upsetting their constituents.

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That is the chief problem with the board as it is currently construed. Board members are not uncaring or ignorant or irresponsible. Instead, they respond to the whims and wishes of voters or other powerful political interests. No matter what politicians say, they are inevitably swayed by the whispers of voters and donors. Not because they are corrupt, but because they are human. All people are prone to this, which is why the framers of the Constitution created a system that checked and balanced one human tendency against another. It’s true that voters can provide a check on board members, but that argument does not account for an additional problem.

The second problem with the current system is that voters have limits to their knowledge about education in our state. Committed parents and citizens can often learn a lot about their own schools and school districts, but rarely does even the most passionate citizen have the time and mental energy to devote beyond that. Should Amendment 1 pass, the state Senate would have a direct responsibility to ensure that the governor appoints quality people to the board, but also to make certain that the Board is making progress in evaluating and improving the quality of education in our state.

Critics argue that an appointed board would lend itself to cronyism. That’s possible, but the executive and legislative branch often have competing interests, even when they share the same partisan and ideological commitments. Those competing concerns would help smooth over concerns about patronage and cronyism. Still, the amendment will not be an easy transition given the natural tendency of politicians towards vanity and self-promotion. The current system is of a worse nature, however, as it leaves the governor and senate almost powerless to impact education policy, which is instead run by another group of politicians with little incentive to do anything that might upset the voters who put them there.

But shouldn’t voters have a say in these matters? No, at least not directly. This is because education policy is a difficult matter, and it is hard for voters to adjudicate the success or failures of these policies beyond the very narrow window of their own experience. It’s fine that we elect local school boards; they are indeed local, and voters often see those board members at church or line at Piggly Wiggly. Only the most politically involved voters are likely to have any encounter with their board members, who are busy juggling very difficult conflicts within their own districts. Each district contains such a variety of constituents that it is almost impossible for board members to adequately address those concerns, instead pandering to the one or two constituencies most likely to keep the member in office.

There is a final reason to support Amendment 1. A central feature of modern politics is the tendency of politicians to see themselves as mouthpieces instead of statesmen. Some of that is natural but other parts of it are due to the incentive structure within our own government. This is as true in Montgomery as it is in Washington D.C., and Alabamians should care far more about the goings-on in our state capital than in our nation’s capital. Since our legislature is stripped of any real influence in state education policy and therefore little accountability to voters, it leaves them free to demagogue and pander on the issue without really having to stand before the voters and take account for their time in office. The same is true for the governor. By making the governor and the state senate responsible for staffing the state school board as part of an ongoing process of appointment and confirmation, these branches of our government would finally have real skin in the game. The success of our schools would be their success, and the failure of our schools would be theirs, also.

Matthew Stokes, a widely published opinion writer and instructor in the core texts program at Samford University, is a Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit educational organization based in Birmingham; learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

12 hours ago

Gary Palmer honors the late NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson on House floor

U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) honored Katherine Johnson with a speech in the House chamber on Thursday.

Johnson, who passed away recently at the age of 101, was one of America’s most important mathematicians in the space race. She pioneered a place for African-American women at NASA and was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures.

“Despite intense discrimination throughout her years at NASA she remained committed to advancing America’s space program,” said Palmer during his speech in her honor.

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“She hand-calculated the flight path for America’s first crewed space mission in 1961, and also helped calculate the trajectory for the famed 1969 moon landing,” continued Palmer.

Palmer also recounted the famous anecdote when astronaut John Glenn was about to become the first American to orbit Earth and he demanded that Johnson do the calculations for his mission. Glenn trusted Johnson more than he trusted NASA’s new computer system.

Watch:

“I stand with my colleagues in the House and with countless other Americans in gratitude for Mrs. Johnson’s hard work and pioneering spirit that have undoubtedly made our country a better place,” Palmer concluded.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.