A new Washington Post feature attempts to make a teen couple who had twins after Texas’ heartbeat law went into effect into Dickensian characters, victims of the cruel laws around them.
Mom Brooke High, we learn, watched the entire 10 seasons of “Friends” after the family moved to Tampa, Florida, for a military job for dad Billy High. She felt “comforted by the voices of characters she felt like she knew in a city where she knew almost no one,” according to the piece.
“Her life quickly started to feel like an endless cycle of tasks, entirely predictable and stretching out into infinity. Cook lunch. Clean up. Play with the girls. Put the girls down for a nap. Change diapers. Cook dinner. Clean up. Repeat,” writes Washington Post reporter Caroline Kitchener, noting that Brooke dropped out of a real estate school when she was pregnant.
Billy and Brooke, both 19, fight, seemingly often. They fight over how much Billy plays video games; whether he does enough for their daughters, now 1 year old; and whether he looks at other women. They have considered divorce and are in marriage counseling. Billy, who loves skateboarding, never intended to join the military until he realized he’d have to provide for a family.
Underlying the story is a gruesome premise: Would Billy and Brooke’s lives be better if they had aborted their daughters, twins Kendall and Olivia?
After all, according to a study “by a pro-abortion-rights research group,” Kitchener notes that “women who are denied abortions experience worse financial, health, and family outcomes than those who are able to end their pregnancies.”
The couple says they doubt they’d still be together if they hadn’t conceived twin daughters.
The Highs, who were profiled by The Washington Post last year when their daughters were infants, initially planned to get an abortion.
But Texas’ heartbeat law, which bans most abortions after an unborn baby has a heartbeat at about six weeks of pregnancy, went into effect 48 hours after Brooke realized she was pregnant. A visit to a pregnancy resource center, complete with an ultrasound that showed her her twin daughters, resulted in Brooke deciding not to go to another state and have an abortion.
“If she really tried, Brooke thought she could make it to New Mexico. Her older brother would probably lend her the money to get there. But she couldn’t stop staring at the pulsing yellow line on the ultrasound screen,” wrote Kitchener in 2022. “She wondered: If her babies had heartbeats, as these women said they did, was aborting them murder?”
Brooke and Billy’s story has become more common.
Since Roe v. Wade was overturned in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision in 2022, states across the country have passed pro-life laws. There are now 25 states that protect unborn children’s lives, although some of the laws have been blocked by judges and are not currently implemented.
Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America estimates that 60,000 babies have been saved since Roe was overturned.
Brooke and Billy had their daughters before the Dobbs decision came down, due to the Supreme Court allowing Texas’ heartbeat law to remain in effect.
The 2022 Washington Post article about Brooke and Billy, titled “This Texas teen wanted an abortion. She now has twins,” drew significant attention, including from Sen. Ted Cruz. The Texas Republican tweeted, “The Wash Post—inadvertently, no doubt—writes a beautiful, powerfully pro-life story.”
But now, Brooke “doesn’t understand why some anti-abortion activists see them as the ultimate success story,” writes Kitchener.
“It doesn’t make sense to me that we would be that shining example,” Brooke says, noting her and her husband’s lives were “so imperfect.”
But the goal of the pro-life movement has never been perfection—or at the least kind of glossy, flawless perfection you see social media influencers, celebrities, and movies tout.
It’s been about ensuring children’s lives aren’t ended prematurely—and about supporting their parents, who are often in tough circumstances because of the unexpected pregnancy.
Amid the messiness of Brooke’s and Billy’s lives, amid the very real challenges they have faced as they changed their entire lives to focus on supporting their daughters, there is a real beauty.
We see Kendall, mid-air, as the toddler is tossed between her doting parents. We see Brooke, collapsed on her bed, one twin nestled against her and the other close by. We see Olivia and Kendall, dressed in olive green, playing with their dad’s Air Force hat as he beams at them.
We learn that the pediatrician declared the twins were “really smart”—which echoes Billy’s praise of his wife for her intelligence. We learn about the moment “Brooke could hear Billy blowing kisses to Kendall and Olivia as they sloshed around in the bathtub, shrieking in delight.” At the playground, the girls show off their different personalities: “Olivia clawing her way up the jungle gym stairs while Kendall teetered on the edge of the platform.”
Would the world be a better place if Olivia and Kendall had died at 12 weeks in the womb or soon after?
Would Brooke and Billy be better off if they had?
The article, like so much abortion reporting from corporate media, doesn’t wrestle with that specific question. The implication is that the abortion would have been akin to using contraception or not having sex: It wouldn’t have ended Kendall’s and Olivia’s lives, but just never permitted those lives to start in the first place.
But that’s just not factual.
Once a baby is conceived, she has her own DNA. By six weeks, yes, she has a heartbeat. She is growing and developing, and barring illness, will continue to do so.
At 12 weeks, when Brooke saw Kendall and Olivia on a ultrasound, they would have had faces, legs, toes, arms, fingers, and eyelids. A 12-week baby, like the twins were, is capable of “yawning, stretching, swallowing, scrunching hands into little fists, touching her face, and scratching her head,” according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the education and research arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
Would The Washington Post have written a story about a couple who wrestled with the decision about whether they should have kept their 2-month-old? Their 2-year-old? Their teenager?
The Post article referenced a study that suggests women who are denied abortions face worse outcomes. Is it really the case that there’s no way for both mom and child to win, that their interests are opposed?
An amicus brief filed in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case specifically highlights the issues with the study the Post cited.
The brief, which was filed by “240 women scholars and professionals and pro-life feminist organizations,” noted that the Turnaway Studies, which were done by the pro-abortion Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco, have several flaws.
“The studies suffer from high dropout rates resulting in tiny cohorts and low statistical power, the lack of a control group, undefined cohorts, and the researchers’ refusal to share data with independent researchers, contrary to scientific practices,” notes the amicus brief.
Furthermore, the story about women’s success and abortion isn’t what liberal feminists would have you believe. The amicus brief states:
From 1990 to 2016, abortion rates declined 46% … During this same period, however, the percentage of women in the workforce with a college degree or more rose from 24.5% to 41.6%. This is a 70% increase. Women also continued to earn an increasing percentage of men’s income, rising from 70.9[%] to 81.9[%,] or a 15.5% increase.
The number of businesses owned by women have also increased substantially in the last three decades while U.S. abortion rates and ratios have been declining. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s economic census … in 1997 the number of women-owned businesses was 5.4 million (i.e., 26% of all U.S. businesses). By 2017, those numbers increased to 11.1 million businesses comprising 39% of all privately held firms. … The increase in businesses owned by women of color was even more spectacular. In the 20 years of declining abortion rates, businesses owned by women of color grew at a rate of 467%.
Even in the article, we learn that Brooke is talking to a career coach and exploring becoming a personal trainer/nutritionist.
That’s not to downplay the challenges moms face regarding the workplace. Although strides have been made in maternity and paternity leave, corporations too often treat parenthood as a nuisance, not as an integral part of life. Women who take time off from their careers to care for their kids often face obstacles to rejoining the workforce.
But the issue with that isn’t pregnancy or children; it’s a corporate culture that treats workers as cogs in the machine.
Furthermore, some government regulations, as my Heritage Foundation colleague Rachel Greszler has written so ably about, make it harder for companies to legally accommodate the more flexible work schedules moms want. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
Additionally, the pro-life movement does focus on helping parents. (The 2022 Post article notes that Brooke did not return to the pregnancy resource center after two appointments and one parenting class.) According to a Lozier Institute 2020 report, pregnancy resource centers do provide “referrals for resources such as job centers and skills training,” and hold “classes [that] also typically cover life skills topics to strengthen the development and resilience of moms- and dads-in-training, broaching strategies for stress management, job skills training, continuing education, marriage and relationship education, relationship boundaries, and conflict resolution.”
None of this, of course, was mentioned in The Washington Post article.
As pro-life laws continue to increase in states after the Dobbs decision, there will no doubt be more Brooke and Billy Highs, young adults grappling with unexpected hardships and sacrifices.
But there will also be more Olivia and Kendall Highs.
Let’s help the moms and dads who became parents unexpectedly. But let’s not let their (very real) difficulties and troubles in changing their lives to raise a child blind us to something wonderful that is happening: More children are getting to stay alive.
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