Rick Perry: Wendy Davis should know better

Demonstrating the stark ideological divide between abortion rights supporters and opponents, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) argued Thursday that state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) should have learned more from her own life experience.

Davis filibustered a bill that would have made it far more difficult to obtain an abortion in Texas.

"Who are we to say that children born in the worst of circumstances can't lead successful lives?" Perry asked in a speech at a convention held by the National Right to Life organization. "Even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She's the daughter of as single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas Senate. It'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."

Davis responded to the Houston Chronicle, saying Perry's statement "is without dignity and tarnishes the high office he holds. They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view."

Davis started working when she was 14 to help her single mother and siblings; by 19 she was divorced with a daughter of her own. Living in a trailer park and "destined to live the life that I watched my mother live,” as she put it in a 2011 video, Davis was encouraged by a co-worker to go to community college. She worked two jobs and took paralegal classes, transferred to Texas Christian University, and after being the first in her family to get a bachelor's degree went on to graduate from Harvard Law School with honors.

Davis and other Democrats succeeded in keeping the bill from becoming law this week, in part thanks to a crowd of protesters who flooded the legislature. The filibuster catapulted her to national fame; thanks in part to her personal history, she's already seen as a rising star in the state party.

But Perry has called a new special session to deal with the legislation. The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks, a policy polling suggests a slim majority of Americans support. It would also restrict the use of pregnancy-ending drugs and make it harder for abortion clinics to operate by imposing new regulations on clinics and doctors.

"Faced with this scar on our national conscience, Texas has pursued policies to protect unborn children, and the laws we will pass in the coming weeks will build on that legacy of life,” Perry told the convention audience. “Some have tried to make this a partisan issue. It’s not. This is a human rights issue, and too important a cause to allow the unruly actions of a few to stand in its way.”

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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Aaron Blake | June 27, 2013