Governor Greg Abbott: We believe in pro-life policies. But a part of those pro-life policies is promoting adoption so that every child can have a life. But also providing adoption in a way that a child can go to lead a healthy, happy, fulfilling life. And that’s exactly what we wanted to provide.
End of Preview
John Fuller: Texas Governor Greg Abbott joins us today on Focus on the Family, talking about some of the challenges that families face, and how Texas seems to be in the center of our cultural conversation about families in so many ways. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we’re living in some incredibly turbulent times in these days, and probably things are occurring that even a decade ago would not have been thought imaginable. And families are concerned about their children’s education and safety and creating an environment for life. There’s a lot happening. Religious liberty is another issue. The state of Texas is very much in the national conversation on these topics and these issues, and the Governor of the state has been in the news a lot this past year, really, the last couple of years in some tremendous ways. And we have the privilege today to talk to the Governor of Texas, Governor Abbott, and we are looking forward to it. Apart from the government duties, there’s also a human side of this equation, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to visit with the Governor about who he is and what he’s learned over the years.
John: Indeed. And Governor Abbott has been in his role since 2014. He was elected the 48th Governor of Texas then. And prior to that was the longest serving Attorney General in the state’s history. He’s responsible for the ninth largest economy in the world…
Jim: (chuckling) Amazing…
John: … which is really something to think about. Married to his wife, Cecilia, for 40 years. She’s a former teacher and principal. The first Hispanic first lady of Texas. They have a daughter who just graduated from college. And today, Jim, we’re sitting in the Governor’s Mansion in Austin, Texas.
Jim: Governor Abbott, welcome to Focus on the Family.
Governor Abbott: Great to be with you. Thank you so much. And I might add welcome to the Governor’s Mansion of the Great State of Texas.
Jim: This is a beautiful home.
Governor Abbott: Well, thank you. Quite historic home.
Jim: Let me start because some of our listeners that especially those that live outside of Texas, don’t know your story. And you have an amazing story. And I’d like to start there…
Governor Abbott: Sure.
Jim: … because you graduated law school, you married your wife, Cecilia, and then you had this tragic accident. What happened?
Governor Abbott: Well, interestingly, it’s a question I get so often because I’m on national TV a lot, right? And I’ll go to different locations across the country and people will meet me and they’ll say, I had no idea you were in a wheelchair. What are you doing in a wheelchair? And so actually, I do get this question quite a bit across the country.
What happened is my wife and I’ve been married for just over two years and moved to Houston, Texas, where I had taken a job to begin our career…
Jim: Right. An exciting time.
Governor Abbott: Right. An exciting time, and when you’re building for the future. And I was studying for the bar exam to be a licensed lawyer, and I took a break from studying for the bar exam and went out for a jog. I was an avid runner. And I was out running this particular day and an enormous oak tree fell as I was running. And it crashed down into my back, fractured my vertebrae and my spinal cord, leaving me immediately paralyzed. And I was taken to a hospital. I was in an intensive care unit for about 10 days as they were trying to figure out how to remove all these vertebrae fragments from my spinal cord, which is very, very difficult. Going through lengthy surgeries and then in a rehabilitation center for months. And so, it was a long recovery period. I got to tell you, it’s a time when you really have to question life, and a lot of questions are raised. But I’ll tell you this. I was born and raised a Christian, but we often do is we have challenges in life when our faith is tested. And I call myself a born-again Christian, because it was during these times that I fully realized that the only pathway I had for the future of my life was by leaning on Christ and having my relationship with Christ, be what would pull me through this most challenging time of my entire life.
Jim: And Governor, let me ask you this. You’ve lived it. So many people are listening who have had tragedy strike them. How did you get through that aspect of it? The old question, “Why me, Lord?”
Governor Abbott: So, in that… that is the question. And I’m glad you asked the question the way you did, because I know that there will be people who were watching, who may be going through a physical challenge, an emotional, or family, or whatever type of challenge they’re facing. And I would strongly urge them to learn the lesson that I learned. And that is we… we, it’s common to ask, “Why me?”. But it’s important to answer, “Let God lead the way.” And if you let God lead the way and truly turn your life over to God, God will build a pathway for you. There is a reason, I believe, why everything happens. And I have found meaning in the accident that I sustained. The recovery that I’ve been through. The pathway that I’ve been down since that recovery. And what I found when I have looked back is every step of the way, there was God guiding me every step of the way
Jim: And what a wonderful example you are of not letting those limitations, you know, curtail what you can do in this life. I mean, you’re the Governor of one of the biggest states in this country. And it’s amazing to see what God has done through your faithfulness.
Governor Abbott: And that’s a good way to put it. Because as we all know, with God, anything is possible.
Governor Abbott: And even a person whose life and body has been broken in half can rise up and be governor of one of the largest states in the world. So, we have today the ninth largest economy in the entire world.
Jim: That’s amazing,
Governor Abbott: But it shows that you can rise up and be the leader of the ninth largest economy in the entire world, with God guiding you down that path.
Jim: It’s one of the great examples of the many things this country allows to occur. And let me… let me get into some of the issues that you face every day as Governor. One of the things you’re very pro-adoption. You have an adopted daughter.
Governor Abbott: We do.
Jim: And we do something called Wait No More at Focus on the Family. The last 10 years has been working with foster adoption. I’m very proud of that. Thousands of kids have been adopted through that program. Speak to that issue personally, and as well as… as a policy, as a public policy matter, the idea of adoption.
Governor Abbott: So, as I understand the situation, the birth mother of our daughter had considered perhaps an abortion. But was really seeking discernment for the right path of what to do in her life. And she met and got to know some people who were involved in crisis pregnancy centers. And… and she was led down the pathway of giving birth to the daughter that we adopted. And so much so, that I was actually the first person to hold our daughter after she was born. But it connects to something that we believe in. We believe in pro-life policies. But a part of those pro-life policies is promoting adoption so that every child can have a life, but also providing adoption in a way that a child can go to lead a healthy, happy, fulfilling life. And that’s exactly what we wanted to provide.
Jim: Yeah, and it’s so good. And you know, those of us that Focus on the Family along with the constituency, we have a weekly listenership of about seven million. There’s a big swath in this country that believe in life, believe in adoption, believe in a better choice. And recently, you’ve signed the heartbeat bill. You know, it’s been in the news. I’m sure just about everybody listening and watching knows about it. Talk about the strategy of that, if you can, and then what you were attempting to do signing that bill into law.
Governor Abbott: Sure. So, a lot of the lead strategy behind this came from a person who is my former Solicitor General when I was the Attorney General of Texas. The strategy was twofold. One, we really wanted to pass a law that did more to protect life than ever before. And I think that we can all agree, we should all be able to agree, that every child with a heartbeat should be spared from the ravages of abortion. It’s just that simple. So, from a policy perspective about saving life, we wanted to make sure that a child’s life would be protected. Part of the strategy was one that we knew that government enforcement of mandates like that would be more likely to be overturned legally. And so, we came up with a new enforcement mechanism, an enforcement mechanism, by the way, that’s been around since the entirety of the United States of America. And that is, it provides third parties, it’s called a Qui Tam. Just to get into details called a Qui Tam lawsuit, where proposed third parties, the enforcement power, is used in Medicaid and Medicare claims, is used in any type of false claims act against the federal government. And so, it just imported into the enforcement mechanism, a strategy that’s been used for well over a century in the United States.
Jim: When you look at it, today is Monday. We’re airing the program as oral arguments are being heard on this very case, the Texas case.
Governor Abbott: Right
Jim: If you were here before a Supreme Court justice, what would you say to them to try to persuade them that this is good?
Governor Abbott: One thing that the Supreme Court has said in the past, has written in the past in abortion cases, and that is states have the authority and the responsibility to look after both the health and safety of the mother and the child. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. We continue to support the health and safety of the mother through this law, but also we do more to promote the health and safety of the child. And so, this really does dovetail with what the Supreme Court has written in the past. And the reality is, with the advancements of medicine, children are being saved at earlier and earlier ages. And this is the step that Texas has taken is just consistent with the advancements that we’ve seen in medicine and the ability to protect children at the earliest of ages.
Jim: It seems one of the missing ingredients has been the political spine to actually step up and defend these, you know, preborn children. I think that’s why the country is really rallying around you and other governors that have expressed such support for the pre-born child. So, thank you.
Governor Abbott: Sure. I’ve had so many people, as I’m traveling literally every day, and strangers will come up to me and thank me for signing this law. It’s just so Texas, because it does send such a strong signal about the support in the reverence…
Governor Abbott: … that we have for children.
Jim: Which is so good. In fact, my wife sent me a picture. I was going to ask you about that. It was a billboard in Colorado Springs, and it was a bunch of puppies. And I want to get this quote correctly. It said on the billboard, “With all these puppies, if Planned Parenthood was killing puppies instead of babies, then would you care?” I mean, isn’t that interesting? It’s a… it’s a great eye-catching moment, right? That maybe our emphasis is on the wrong thing.
Governor Abbott: Well, I think we just need to clarify the emphasis because some people claim and argue that by focusing on the child, we are ignoring the mother. And that’s not the case.
Jim: That is an old argument.
Governor Abbott: We strongly support all women, including women who are pregnant and women who will be giving birth to a child, and we continue to do so in this law.
Governor Abbott: And Texas continues to pass laws to support mothers who do get pregnant, who do give birth.
Governor Abbott: But also, we need to support the children.
Jim: Absolutely. And thankfully, I know many pregnancy resource clinics right here in Texas that do an outstanding job of that, helping them with budget training and job training and job placement and goods for their children. The cribs, the formula, whatever they need.
Governor Abbott: And so along those lines, at the same time that we pass this bill, we also added funding in our state budget to provide more of those types of services.
Jim: Mmm. Let me ask you a question that really irritates me, if I could say it that way, and I get it from reporters all the time. As evangelical Christians, why do you get so wrapped up in the Republican Party? And I would say, I think from my perspective, I say to them, when was the last time you asked that of a liberal or progressive? That the candidate that they support actually puts forward policies that they can adhere to, right?
Governor Abbott: Mm-hmm.
Jim: And I think it’s such an absurd question. I’d love for both Democrats and Republicans to be pro-life, pro-family, pro marriage, in order to, I think, create a more stable culture for ourselves. But how would you respond to that, that, you know, Christians being wrapped around a certain party? We identify with the policies that we’d like to live out, right?
Governor Abbott: Right. I mean, to look, conversely, socialists define with a particular party.
Governor Abbott: It is not the Republican Party. And but there is, if you would, some tension between the those who are pro-life and those who are socialists. We believe that the family is the centerpiece of the United States of America.
Jim: And you’ve been bold about that.
Governor Abbott: Right. And so, we, we naturally promote pro-family policies. And children are a core component of that.
John: Our guest today on Focus on the Family is Texas Governor Greg Abbott. And we’ve been talking about the value of life and about our Wait No More program. You can find out more about supporting foster care and adoptive families when you stop by our website, focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A, and the word Family.
Jim: Here in Texas, you’ve taken a strong stance on protecting children from ideological or radical ideas. Speak to some of those strong things that you’ve done to try to get education back to education.
Governor Abbott: I know. You said it well. We need to get education back to education.
Governor Abbott: We need, if we’re going to keep up in this international economy, we need to make sure that our students are learning the core principles of math, of science, and the hard skills they need to learn as opposed to the ideology that the educators are trying to indoctrinate our children in.
I’ll just give you a couple of quick examples concerning some laws that we passed. And those we… we see this effort to try to allow boys to participate in girls’ sports.
Governor Abbott: It just makes no sense whatsoever. And that’s why we passed a law to prevent boys from participating in girls’ sports in the state of Texas.
Jim: Can I ask you?
Governor Abbot: Sure.
Jim: There is so often you hear the argument, “You’re being mean spirited.” Bat that down because that’s not it. We care about everybody.
Governor Abbott: Right. So, I think it’s being mean spirited to allow girls, who have worked for years to be a state champion, only to lose that state championship to a boy competing against them. This is actually being pro-girl, pro-woman. And as a father of a daughter, I support those very principles.
But another thing that we’ve been fighting against in the state of Texas, that we’ve seen across the entire country, and that is this indoctrination through Critical Race Theory…
Governor Abbott: … that is being taught in our schools. And so, we passed, during the regular session and then during a special session, what I think is the strongest ban on the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the United States of America because it’s in every grade, it’s in every subject, and it seeks to root out and eliminate any teaching of Critical Race Theory in our schools.
Jim: Let me ask you, in that regard, you’re sitting in an incredibly important position as Governor of Texas. What is the big issue there with Critical Race Theory? What is the threat to our freedoms in that regard?
Governor Abbott: There are several. One is a key component of the teachings of Critical Race Theory is the antithesis of what God teaches. The antithesis of what the United States was founded upon. Because what it does is, is Critical Race Theory divides people on the basis of race…
Governor Abbott: … and then uses strategies to have them attack each other, using race as the reason to attack each other.
Governor Abbott: So, as opposed to uniting people it’s dividing people. And it teaches the contrary of what Martin Luther King Jr. taught us. And that is, we’re to be judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin.
Jim: Yeah. And that is so true. It’s the opposite of what Martin Luther King Jr. shared with us, right, which I think everybody aspired to. That’s a good thing.
Governor Abbott: Right.
Jim: Let me move to the border crisis.
Governor Abbott: Sure.
Jim: I mean, Texas, you’re at the epicenter. I was able to go down to McAllen, Texas, and take a look at the border issues a couple of years ago, and it seemed like things were reasonably under control. Things have exploded. As the Governor, what do you see? What are the concerns? And again, it’s not that we dislike, or you dislike anybody. It’s can we put this into a legal process, I’m sure.
Governor Abbott: Well, and so I’ll expand on some key points that you made. Last year, and a few years ago, the border was under better control than had been maybe in decades. But this year is the worst that it’s ever been. And it’s because of lawlessness. It’s because the Biden administration has promoted open border policies that have abandoned the rule of the laws passed by the United States Congress that established the immigration system in the United States.
Whenever our country leaders go down a pathway of abandoning the rule of law that is articulated by either Congress or by state legislatures, you’re gonna sow chaos.
Governor Abbott: And chaos is exactly what we are reaping as a country right now because of what the Biden administration has done. And that’s what I’m trying to correct as Governor of Texas. I’m, with the largest border of any state in the United States, I’m seeking to enforce the rule of law in our state, to restore order and to get rid of the chaos, but also to restore public safety.
We need to understand – this is more than just people who are seeking food and hard work and a better way of life. There are cartel members. There are gangs. There are very dangerous traffickers of the deadly drug fentanyl. There’s all kinds of dangerous elements, including people who are coming from terrorist-based countries. There’s people coming from more than 150 countries across the entire globe across our border. Somebody has to stand up and say, “We are going to protect the sovereignty of the United States of America.”
Jim: Yeah. Governor, many people ask me this question, which I can’t answer because I don’t serve in a public capacity like you do. But why is it getting so difficult for people to agree on these things? I don’t care what letters behind your name, a D or an R and I. But this is so self-evident that we need to protect the borders to have orderly immigration. Why have people lost their way in this regard? Why has it become purely politics?
Governor Abbott: Because… politics have become more polarized. You do see just, quite candidly, a socialistic agenda. These are policies that the Democrats all campaigned upon, and that is open border policies. And it’s chaotic. But they want to see America have open borders, which is no immigration system and a country without borders is not a country.
Jim: Does any country in the world do that?
Governor Abbott: No.
Jim: I’m just curious.
Governor Abbott: Let’s look at Israel, for example, in the way that they secure their borders. In fact, even look at Mexico and the way it secures its borders. And so almost every country in the entire world, they understand that what… part of what makes them a country are the physical lines…
Governor Abbott: … of their region. And if we abandon those lines, we abandon our country. We abandon all the values that have been a part of our country since our very founding.
Jim: I have friends down on the southern border, Bill and Kerri. They own property down there. They said that small towns, Uvalde, and other places, are just getting overrun.
Jim: That it’s diminishing their lives
Governor Abbott: People’s houses are being broken into. There are a lot of ranches down there and the ranch fences are being cut. Cattle and livestock are being let out. There’s great destruction just by the sheer number. Just this year alone, there have been over a million people coming across the border illegally, and those numbers add up and they lead to all kinds of challenges in all the border related communities.
Jim: Mmm. Another policy area is human sex trafficking. You have been very strong. Texas is rated as one of the strongest states in the country. You get an A from our good friend, Linda Smith, from Shared Hope. And they give every state a grade. I tried to do some things in our state of Colorado to improve the grade. We took it from an F to a B+, so we’re not quite where you’re at, but we’re trying. And I just think that’s an amazing achievement for the state of Texas under your leadership. What is capturing your attention in that area of sex trafficking? Why do you care so much?
Governor Abbott: Well, it’s something I got involved in when I was the Attorney General. Before I became Governor, I was very active in using the tools as Attorney General to, as a prosecutor, to crack down on it. But since I’ve been Governor, I’ve signed a lot of laws that continue to crack down on it.
In fact, this session I signed nine laws cracking down on this heinous crime of human trafficking because it is a depravity of life itself for anyone to be trafficked or to be violated the way that these victims of human trafficking are being violated. And that’s something that President Biden and the others who are open borders need to understand. And that is by enticing people to come to this country, they are enticing people to go through the horrors of what human trafficking is all about. And many people coming across the border are victims of that human trafficking because of the open border policies, as opposed to having people go through the proper asylum process to come to the United States correctly.
Jim: Yeah. And again, that’s the big point. Do it orderly, do it legally. And I think everybody’s favorable towards that.
Governor Abbott: But listen. The United States has been a pro legal immigration state from the very beginning, and there are very legal ways to do it and people need to follow those legal pathways to do it.
Jim: Governor, I know you’re on a tight schedule. Let me ask this final question, and it’s a personal one, I think. How can we pray for you? And in that context, what keeps you up at night? What do you worry about?
Governor Abbott: Well, first on the prayer, always pray… pray for health and safety. But mostly pray for God’s continued grace and guidance. If we all have God’s grace and guidance, everything is going to work out. And so, I what, what I pray when I go to bed is for God’s grace and guidance.
Governor Abbott: And knowing that everything will be just fine.
Jim: I love that idea of wisdom. Solomon prayed for that. I think that’s a good one. And anything keeping you up?
Governor Abbott: If you if you have God on your side, you can sleep well.
Jim: I like that, too. Governor Abbott, thank you so much for your time, and we so appreciate your leadership. Truly. On behalf of millions of people, at least the Focus listenership. So, thank you.
Governor Abbott: Thank you, all.
John: What a great conversation. And I hope you’ve been encouraged by the Governor and his stance for biblical perspectives on the issues surrounding us. One of those being life. Jim mentioned Wait No More. Let me also make mention of Option Ultrasound, which Jim, is a terrific program saving pre-born babies.
Jim: It is. And you know, almost 500,000 babies have been saved, John, and I’m proud of that. I want to see a million saved over the next three or four years. And I think the Lord will smile if we can achieve that. I think he’s smiling now.
But you heard the Governor mention that today oral arguments are being heard right in the Supreme Court on the Texas heartbeat bill. Those that sell abortion, that promote the taking of pre-born babies, they are attempting to squelch that. To turn it around, to overrule it. I would say pray. Pray today for the wisdom of the Supreme Court to do the right thing. And it’s possible. I think life, there is wind in the sails of life in this country. And there’s been a lot of effort from so many organizations and people. And we need your prayers now.
And also, obviously, if you can support Focus on the Family with Option Ultrasound, we’d really appreciate it. It only costs $60 to save a baby’s life. And I would encourage you to consider saving a baby’s life today.
John: As you’ve said time and again in the halls of Focus, Jim, a million alive by 2025. Join us in this effort to save every baby’s life that can be saved through our Option Ultrasound program. You can do that by donating a $60 gift when you call 800, the letter A, and the word Family. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: John, let me say one last thing about interviewing a governor. I don’t care if there’s an R or a D behind that person’s name. I would wish that everybody would be concerned about the family structure. About traditional marriage. About children. About the issue of taking an innocent child’s life. Wouldn’t it be a better country, if politically, all those things were seen as normal, and that we all championed? It is not a political thing. These are moral issues in the public square. And I hope you understand that. Don’t consider abortion politics. Abortion is an evil in this country. An immoral situation that we, the body of Christ, need to correct in our culture.
John: One other thing that comes to mind is your opportunity to stay up to date with cultural currents, things that the Governor has addressed, and much, much more. The Daily Citizen is a service that we provide. And you can find out all the details about how to get updates in your email inbox on a regular basis. Check out The Daily Citizen. And also make a donation, if you can, to the Option Ultrasound program that we have. The link is at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call 1-800, the letter A, and the word Family.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the rest of the team here, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family.
Next time, we’ll hear from Dr. Tony Evans about having a kingdom marriage, and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.