Texas Gov. Perry, State Sen. Davis Clash Over Antiabortion Bill

June 28, 2013 — Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Thursday criticized the Democratic state senator whose filibuster helped block an antiabortion-rights bill (SB 5), saying that Sen. Wendy Davis (D) had not learned from her own disadvantaged upbringing that all life should be valued, the AP/U-T San Diego reports.

Davis was raised by a single mother and began working at age 14 to support herself and siblings. By 19, she was divorced and raising her own child, but she eventually graduated from Harvard Law School (Weissert, AP/U-T San Diego, 6/27).

Davis on Tuesday filibustered for more than 10 hours in an effort to block SB 5, which includes four abortion regulations that failed to progress in either chamber of the Legislature during the regular session: a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless a woman's life is in danger, a requirement that abortions be performed at an ambulatory surgical center, a mandate that physicians administer medication abortion drugs in person and a requirement that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

Stalled by the filibuster and outbursts from a crowd of abortion-rights supporters, Republicans failed to pass the bill by a midnight deadline during a special legislative session. However, Perry on Wednesday called a second special session to address the bill. The 30-day session will begin on July 1 (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/27).

Perry's Comments

Perry said during a speech at a National Right to Life conference on Thursday, "Who are we to say that children born in the worst of circumstances can't lead successful lives?" He cited Davis as an example, saying, "Even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances."

Perry added, "[I]t's just unfortunate that she hasn't learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters" (AP/U-T San Diego, 6/27). He also vowed to pass the legislation, saying that "Tuesday was nothing more than the hijacking of the democratic process." He added, "This is simply too important a cause to allow unruly actions of a few to stand in its way" (Garza, Reuters, 6/27).

During an interview with reporters after the speech, Perry expanded on his comments. "I'm proud that she's been able to take advantage of her intellect and her hard work, but she didn't come from particularly good circumstances," he said, adding, "What if her mom had said, 'I just can't do this. I don't want to do this.'"

Davis, Planned Parenthood Respond

Davis in a statement on Thursday said Perry's comments were "without dignity and tarnishe[d] the high office he holds. They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view." She added, "Our governor should reflect our Texas values. Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test" (Preston, "The Lede," New York Times, 6/28).

Davis during a Thursday interview said that even if the bill passes, "[w]omen and men across Texas are in an uproar about it and I don't expect that their concerns on this issue are going to go away with the passage of the law" (Glueck, Politico, 6/27).

Cecile Richards -- president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund -- said, "Rick Perry's remarks are incredibly condescending and insulting to women." She added, "This is exactly why the vast majority of Texans believe that politicians shouldn't be involved in a woman's personal health care decisions" (AP/U-T San Diego, 6/27).