As House Republicans attempt to force a vote on protecting babies born alive after abortion, activists from around the country came to advocate for these children’s lives. Rachel del Guidice speaks to the Balek family, who came from South Carolina to attend the event put on by Heritage Action, the lobbying and advocacy arm of The Heritage Foundation. Read the transcript, posted below, or listen to the podcast:
We also cover these stories:
- President Donald Trump is pulling back from his threat to shut down the border over massive flows of migrants.
- Senate Republicans voted to eliminate aspects of the filibuster for executive and judicial nominees.
- Sen. Ted Cruz is threatening legal action against Yale Law School, saying the school is blacklisting Christian organizations.
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This transcript has been lightly edited.
Rachel del Guidice: We’re joined on The Daily Signal podcast today by Tom and Linda Balek and their son, Jeff Balek, who traveled to Washington, D.C., from South Carolina to ask lawmakers to sign a discharge petition to force a vote on legislation to protect babies born alive after an abortion. Thank you all so very much for joining us today.
Linda Balek: You’re welcome.
Tom Balek: You’re welcome. Happy to be here.
del Guidice: Tom and Linda, you have a very moving personal story about your son, Jeff, and why he has made you so passionate about this issue. Could you share that story with us?
Tom Balek: Our family is very pro-life, and it’s largely because of the experience we had with our son, Jeff. Jeff was born in 1980. He was a 26-week term baby. He was a twin, premature twin. And Jeff is living, walking, breathing, drumming proof that second-trimester babies are people.
We’re not only opposed to abortion, we’re very opposed to late-term abortion for that reason. And very, very, very opposed to infanticide, which is the direction things seem to be going in the pro-abortion movement.
del Guidice: Jeff, what has it been like to advocate and to speak to lawmakers about this issue that you’re so passionate about as well?
Jeff Balek: I’m just glad that I’m living and walking and loved talking to the lawmakers yesterday. It was a good discussion.
del Guidice: Well, thank you for talking to us. Tom, when we were talking yesterday, you said that not only was Jeff a viable baby and human being, he’s also an asset to the community and your family and this is your walking defense against abortion. Can you tell us more about … the so many things he’s accomplished?
Tom Balek: Sure. Jeff is a community treasure. He has received a lot of awards nationally and locally for his volunteer service. He has been working as a tutor of at-risk elementary students for many years.
Jeff Balek: And I volunteer for the hospice patients, too, in Charlotte. Loving doing that. I read the Bible to them.
Tom Balek: Jeff has done all kinds of volunteer work and is a real advocate for at-risk kids. He uses twin-vision Braille books that have Braille overlays along with the text and images in the regular kids books. That’s really interesting to them. And as much as anything, they’re fascinated meeting a blind guy who can read and function.
Linda Balek: The great thing about talking to local kids is they will ask the craziest questions that will just make you roll on the floor, and then Jeff will just answer them and it’s just all good.
del Guidice: Wow, that is beautiful.
You spent your time here, in our nation’s capital, joining 50-plus Heritage Action sentinels from across the country who came here to D.C. to encourage lawmakers to sign the discharge petition in support of the born-alive bill. What has this experience been like and what kind of response have you been receiving from lawmakers?
Tom Balek: Every trip to Heritage in Washington is an absolute blast, we get to see all of our friends. We’ve been active with the Heritage sentinels program for many years and I’ve been on a number of trips to The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action. When we’re here, we get to see our friends and get some important work done.
It was great to be on the Hill yesterday. We didn’t get to meet any congressmen, other than our own, our wonderful Ralph Norman from our district in South Carolina. But we talked with staffers and got some good responses about our promotion of the [Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act], and we’re encouraging them to sign the discharge petition so that that bill can be moved from committee to the floor for a vote.
My understanding is we need 18 more, isn’t that right, Linda?
Linda Balek: I think so. They seem to be a lot more receptive on this issue than other issues we’ve gone up and discussed. It’s hard for them to say something like, “It’s a partisan issue,” because it’s not, it’s a life. And I think that makes a little bit less pressure on them. However, I think it’s going to take some encouragement and follow-up to make sure they stay on task.
Tom Balek: We can share some of the interesting responses we got yesterday on the Hill if you’re interested in that.
del Guidice: Yeah, I’d love to hear what you guys were talking about.
Tom Balek: We were speaking to staffers in one of the congressmen’s offices and they said they had been receiving phone calls all day about the discharge petition and they said, we don’t know if this is true or not, but they said, “About half of our callers are in favor of the Born-Alive Act and about half are opposed.”
I asked the question of the legislative director, “So, why are half of them opposed to it? Do you ever ask the question, ‘Why are you opposed?'” I just got a blank stare.
I don’t think anybody would admit that they are in favor of leaving a living, breathing baby on a shelf to die. Who’s going to admit to that? This is such a slam dunk. It’s mind-boggling that there’s any opposition to this at all and I don’t understand why every congressman hasn’t signed that discharge petition.
Linda Balek: My whole question is, when does life start then for these people? Does somebody have a 3-year-old and they’re tired of being a mother to a 3-year-old, that can be a little trying at times, and think, “Gee, I just don’t want a baby, just put it in the dumpster.” It’s about that crude. It’s just as crazy as what they’re doing with this born-alive baby.
Tom Balek: We’re from York County, South Carolina, and a recent item in the news there referred to a woman who had 22 horses and 15 dogs and cats that all died on her property because she was ill and in the hospital and hadn’t arranged to get them fed. And she was being charged and likely will have jail time or a significant sentence for not feeding horses and dogs and cats.
That’s clearly illegal in everybody’s mind, and I’ll bet you all of the Democrats on the Hill would think that’s horrific, and yet they can’t support providing medical care to a newborn baby who’s alive in front of the doctor. Mind-boggling.
del Guidice: It is so mind-boggling. What would your message be, Tom and Linda, to parents who might have received news that there’s complications with their pregnancy and are being encouraged to have an abortion? Given your own personal experience, what would your message to them be?
Linda Balek: Doctors are practicing. They aren’t God and they don’t really know what’s going to happen. I believe that every child has a value. I have seen kids that are so un-normal, for lack of a better word, that have blessed their families so much.
Tom Balek: Our sons were born at 26 weeks. Jeff was the tough one, he survived. And he has had some residual problems, and really not exactly as a result of his premature birth. But that was 39 years ago. That was in 1980. So, for people to second-guess the viability of an in utero baby … I don’t think is appropriate at all. Like Linda said, that’s a human life. Our Christian belief is that that is a soul since conception.
del Guidice: Besides the advocacy work you all do, your family also has its own band. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Tom Balek: Jeff, tell us about the band.
Jeff Balek: The band is named “Caution! Blind Driver,” and of course the drummer is the driver of the band and we have a lot of funny photos on our website.
We were at my sister’s house and all of us were in the car, my sister, her husband, my mom and dad, and me. I had my cane outside the window—rolled down—my hands on the steering wheel, my knees on the seat of the truck, and everybody all terrified. “Caution! Blind Driver,” you know? And there was a sign there that said, “Sorry, officer, just going to our next gig.”
Tom Balek: Yeah, it’s keen traveling with our truck.
Jeff Balek: Yeah.
Tom Balek: I have to tell you, I’ve been a musician all my life and I’m really, really, really, really old, and there is no drummer in the world I’d rather play with than this blind guy right here next to me. He’s an incredible musician. So, in addition to being a good volunteer and a pretty good guy, I don’t know what I’d do without him in our band.
My daughter plays bass with us, so it’s a family band. This weekend we’re playing a festival in the Charlotte area. It’s a big dog festival. Thousands of families come with their dogs. And we’ll be playing for several hours there on the big stage. Of course we had to learn a whole bunch of dog songs, didn’t we Jeff?
Jeff Balek: Yes, we did.
del Guidice: That’s incredible. So, you’ve spent your time here in D.C. petitioning to support the born-alive legislation. And I know you talked to some lawmakers, but you weren’t able to obviously speak to each one. If you had the opportunity to talk to each one of them, what would be the one thing that you would want to say to them?
Tom Balek: … I would ask them, “How or why are you opposed to protecting a newborn baby, offering it the medical care that you would make available to any other human being? What’s the difference between a baby that’s 6 minutes old, 6 days old, or 6 years old?” A person’s a person and entitled to medical care. That would be my question for every single one of them. “What is it that you oppose?”
Linda Balek: Some of them tend to be getting lost in the weeds and furthering their side by saying, “Well, who’s going to pay for this and what are we going to do with the baby?” And things like that. There are plenty of people out there that I know personally that have had to go to foreign countries to adopt children and would take a baby in a heartbeat in any condition.
I think the thing to remember, too, is a lot of our homegrown adoption agencies have been sued to oblivion, that are faith-based, and therefore are no longer being able to adopt out these babies.
We have a lot of different organizations just wanting them to adopt them to just anybody, and they oftentimes believe that they’re supposed to be a man and a woman and a family and they’re supposed to stay at home, somebody is, to raise the child and be parents.
Tom Balek: And when there’s a human life at stake, you deal with what’s in front of you. You don’t take the time to question who’s paying, who’s responsible, what about custody, what about this and that detail. You save that human life because a human life is precious.
Linda Balek: As someone said yesterday, she goes by in D.C. here, [she sees] homeless people all the time and occasionally there’s somebody that’s OD’d. The services come and help them. And they don’t go through his pockets to see how he’s going to pay for it or if he’s going to pay for it, they just take care of the person.
Tom Balek: To save that human life, yeah.
del Guidice: Well, Tom, Linda, and Jeff, thank you so very much for being with us today.
Tom Balek: Thank you guys for all you do.
Jeff Balek: Thank you so much.
Tom Balek: We are just tremendous fans and advocates of The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action, and as a conservative activist there’s no place else I’d rather be than right here in the Heritage building.
del Guidice: Well, thank you all.