AUSTIN, September 22, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - After Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office said the GOP presidential frontrunner does not oppose all abortions, drawing fire from a right to life advocate, one Texas pro-life group is insisting that the statement only reflects the governor’s acceptance of incremental pro-life legislation.

Katherine Cesinger, the State Press Director for RickPerry.org, told Maryland pro-life leader John Lofton in a recent email forwarded to LifeSiteNews.com that “Gov. Perry is pro-life, with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.”

Lofton, an editor for The American View, told LifeSiteNews.com that the statement proved that portrayals of Gov. Perry as totally pro-life are misleading. “He is repeatedly characterized as pro-life everywhere,” said Lofton, who criticized Perry in a press release this week highlighting Cesinger’s statement.

Join a Facebook page to end abortion here

Pro-life leaders in Texas responded, arguing they have not been wrong to endorse Perry as a thoroughly pro-life candidate.

Elizabeth Graham of Texas Right to Life told LSN that Cesinger’s statement only made sense as a reflection of Gov. Perry’s policy position in support of incremental legislation, and that the governor would “absolutely” support laws such as a fetal pain bill that does not include a rape and incest exception. Perry has endorsed a bill in Ohio that would ban all abortions after a detectable heartbeat, as early as 18 days after conception.

“We don’t want to put words in his mouth, but we’ve worked [with Gov. Perry] for 12 years,” said Graham, citing multiple conversations with Perry’s Chief of Staff and the governor himself on the issue. Graham says her organization, the largest pro-life group in Texas, also supports incremental legislation.

“We’re willing to pass laws and implement [them] even if they sadly contain the rape and incest exception,” she said. “Gov. Perry has made a distinction to us in his time as a public figure that he, like us, would like to ban abortions, that he recognizes the personhood of unborn children, even those conceived in rape and incest.

“But he also supports public policy that is strong and makes an impact, even if that legislation includes rape and incest exceptions.”

Graham had told LSN in a previous interview that in the case of a pregnancy threatening the life of the mother, Perry “recognizes that there are very rare instances in which an abortion may be necessary to prevent the death of the mother.”

When asked by LifeSiteNews whether Graham’s distinction was accurate, Perry’s press secretary responded: “Governor Perry is the most pro-life governor in Texas history,” and referenced a recent endorsement letter for Perry from Texas Alliance for Life.

“We will let Elizabeth speak for herself.  She’s been a friend and supporter of the Governor’s strong pro-life work in Texas,” said Cesinger.