Rick Perry Supports "Fetal Pain" Measure, Vows to Make Abortion a "Thing of the Past"

Perhaps you were hoping that the upcoming legislative session wouldn't be yet another round of conservative lawmakers vying with one another to show just how deeply and sincerely anti-abortion they are. Or maybe that's exactly what you look for in a lawmaker: an eagle eye and a vise grip on every Texan uterus and its contents. In the latter case, Rick Perry's announcement today that he'll support a yet-to-be-filed "fetal pain" bill is probably wonderful news.

As we noted yesterday, the fetal pain bill is based on model legislation by lobbyist group Americans United for Life, and premised on some deeply questionable science . It hasn't been filed yet, and it's unclear when it will be or which lawmaker will sponsor it. Nonetheless, Perry took to the stage this afternoon at The Source for Women Spring Branch, an anti-abortion health clinic of sorts, to announce that whenever the bill actually exists, he's behind it.

"This session, I'm calling on the legislature to strengthen our ban on the procedure, prohibiting abortion at the point a baby can feel the pain of being killed," Perry said, according to a transcript. "We have an obligation to end that kind of cruelty. Now, to be clear, my goal, and the goal of many of those joining me here today, is to make abortion, at any stage, a thing of the past."

Even Rick Perry is aware that ending abortion altogether is slightly outside his purview, though. "While Roe v. Wade prevents us from taking that step, it does allow states to do some things to protect life if they can show there is a compelling state interest," he added. "I don't think there is any issue that better fits the definition of 'compelling state interest' than preventing the suffering of our state's unborn. We cannot, and we will not, stand idly by while the unborn are going through the agony of having their lives ended."

It's no accident that Perry chose to make this speech at the Source for Women, an anti-abortion sort of half-clinic whose ribbon-cutting he presided over back in September. The Source doesn't offer birth control, as they appear to be part of the crowd who believe it's equivalent to terminating a pregnancy. What health counseling they do offer comes with a great deal of encouragement to "know Jesus, the giver of all life."

At the ribbon-cutting, too, Perry made an identical pledge to "make abortion a thing of the past." He also promised that The Source would be a part of the state-funded Texas Women's Health Program (WHP), while Planned Parenthood would not be.

The implication is that welcoming the Source while banning Planned Parenthood would somehow reduce the number of abortions being had by WHP clients. In fact, though, the WHP is explicitly for women who are not pregnant . The main thing it's used for is helping women get access to yearly pap smears and birth control, one of which the Source refuses to provide. It's also unclear if they treat STDs, another key function of the WHP program, although their website does promise to provide STD testing and "counseling."

Planned Parenthood didn't immediately respond to the governor's statements. But in what is probably not a coincidence, they chose this afternoon to announce that they've filed another lawsuit against the state of Texas, arguing that the state doesn't have the power to keep them out of the Texas Women's Health Program. According to a press release, they've also filed a similar lawsuit in federal court, saying their ban from the WHP violates the U.S. Constitution.

"The ideal world is a world without abortion," Perry said this afternoon. "Until then, however, we will continue to pass laws to ensure abortions are as rare as possible under existing law."

Both NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and the national Center for Reproductive Rights have already issued angry press releases about the governor's remarks, using words like "extremist," "pandering" and "cruel."

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan