Kathleen Gilbert

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The case against Rick Perry - pro-life and pro-family concerns

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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Note: This article is Part III in a three-part series exploring all aspects of Rick Perry’s record on pro-life and pro-family issues. Read Parts I and II here:

Who is Rick Perry? (Part 1 of special report)
Who is Rick Perry? - Part II: A Texas governor’s pro-life legacy

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Since announcing his candidacy earlier this month, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has displayed formidable staying power near the top of the GOP presidential pack – at least in part thanks to the support of pro-life and pro-family advocates.

But while he has been enthusiastically welcomed by many social conservatives due to his very public stance against abortion and same-sex “marriage,” others have expressed concern about some aspects of Perry’s past that they say call into question Perry’s social conservative credentials, and may even indicate a degree of hypocrisy.

Two haunting endorsements

Perhaps most damaging to Perry’s reputation as a social conservative was his 2008 decision to support GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani in a “very strong and proud way,” despite Giuliani’s well-known support for legal abortion, and liberal views on other issues.

“We spent an inordinate amount of time together over the course of the last six weeks talking about issues both on the phone and face to face ... I looked him in the eye and I asked him questions on some issues that we don’t agree on,” Perry said of the former New York mayor on Fox News on October 17, 2007.

“And, but here’s the - I don’t get tied up with the process, what I look for is results,” he continued. “Rudy Giuliani is the individual who will give us the results that will make America safer, that will move our economy forward, will put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court ... that covers a host of issues that are important to me.”

Leading pro-life conservatives at the time took a very different view. Less than three weeks earlier, on September 30, Giuliani’s frontrunning campaign had been shaken after conservative magnates vowed to support a third-party candidate should someone as pro-abortion as Giuliani win the Republican nomination.

“Giuliani is beyond the pale,” said Richard Viguerie, a leading conservative fundraiser who had met with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and former Focus on the Family leader James Dobson. “There’s no way that conservative leaders are going to support a pro-abortion candidate. It was unanimous.”

In an interview with Time magazine August 11 of this year, Perry defended endorsing Giuliani, saying he was effectively supporting a constitutional path to eliminating abortion by backing a believer in conservative jurisprudence.

“He and I were 180 degrees on social issues, but he would put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court, which dealt with those social issues,” he said. “I happen to be comfortable that I was making the right decisions and that as President, when it comes to those social issues, it’s very important to have that strict constructionist view of who you put on the Supreme Court.”

Similar concerns still dog Perry over his ties to Al Gore, for whom Perry served as Texas presidential campaign manager 23 years ago, when Gore was U.S. Senator for Tennessee, at a time when both men were Democrats.

Although much of today’s controversy surrounds Gore’s climate change beliefs, the 1988 campaign was also a sensitive turning point for Gore, who had spent much of the decade transitioning from pro-life to pro-choice talking points, on social issues.

While still opposing federal funding of abortion, by 1987 Gore had stepped away from previous statements - and an 84% pro-life voting record - supporting the unborn’s right to life, and made clear his support for legalized abortion. A New York Times article in 2000 cited critics who pegged the 1988 campaign as the moment Gore “brought his positions in line with the party’s powerful feminist and abortion rights constituent groups.”

Perry, who deserted the Democrat party in 1989, has laughed off the association - at least regarding his erstwhile friend’s flagship position on climate change.

“I certainly got religion. I think he’s gone to hell,” Perry said of Gore in 2009, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The Gardasil controversy

Also prominent in the arsenal of conservative Perry skeptics is the controversy over Governor Perry’s decision in February 2007 to issue an executive order that made Texas the first U.S. state (20 currently do so) to mandate an HPV vaccine for middle school-aged girls – an action that drew national attention. Responding to conservative backlash, state legislators overturned the order within months, and Gov. Perry withheld his veto.

At the time, Gardasil, a drug found in more recent years to cause severe side effects and even death, was the only approved vaccine for HPV – a sexually-transmitted disease.

The drug continues to be advertised as a means of preventing cervical cancer, which has been linked to HPV infection. Colleagues say Perry, whose mother and father both suffered from cancer, has often shown passion over the issue, such as in his pivotal role in creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

But over and against the arguments of conservatives, the Texas governor rejected any suggestion that the STD vaccine encouraged sexual activity.

“Providing the HPV vaccine doesn’t promote sexual promiscuity any more than the Hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use,” Perry argued days after issuing the order.

Although some say the executive order violated parents’ rights, the text of the order altered then-current protocol to allow parents to submit a “conscientious objection affidavit” as an opt-out – a provision that opponents denounced as inadequate.

Some also criticized the move as a symptom of political pandering: World Net Daily cites potential ties Perry had to the pharmaceutical giant through two former Perry chiefs of staff who worked for Merck (the pharmaceutical company behind the vaccine), and a current chief of staff whose mother-in-law worked there. Merck’s political action committee also donated $6,000 to Perry’s re-election campaign.

Politico recently reviewed FOIA-obtained emails from Perry’s office regarding the Gardasil decision. They found little defining the governor’s own stance in negotiations, but noted the matter appeared settled before the email chain began, six months before the executive order.

Although he stood firmly beside his “pro-life position” on Gardasil as late as last year, the governor has recanted his position after stepping onto the presidential stage.

“I readily stand up and say I made a mistake on that,” Perry said last Monday on an Iowa radio call-in show. 

Conservatives appear torn over the apology. RedState blogger Streiff has dismissed the HPV hullaballoo as “a nothingburger”; however, National Review’s Michelle Malkin vociferously rejected the backpedaling and accused Perry of “borrowing a tried-and-true Alinskyite page from the progressive left” with “human-shield demagoguery” for his emotional anti-cancer defense of the mandate.

Hate crimes legislation

Another spot on Perry’s record noted by conservatives is his signing of a hate crimes measure, which included special protections based on sexual orientation, shortly after becoming governor in 2001. 

The measure, known as the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, was named after a Texas black man killed by three white men, but also included special protections for sexual orientation, including both homosexuality and heterosexuality. George W. Bush, Perry’s predecessor as Texas governor, had refused two years earlier to support the measure based on his objection to any hate crime law, saying that all crimes are hate crimes.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner did not comment on the matter to LifeSiteNews.com.

Gary Glenn, Executive Director of American Family Association of Michigan, wrote in June that he was “disappointed” in Perry over the 2001 law, which he called “arguably the most dangerous element of homosexual activists’ political agenda.”

An unanswered question

In terms of personal pro-life beliefs, perhaps one of the most salient questions is also the most mysterious.

A quick search on Perry’s pro-life beliefs turns up a claim from OnTheIssues.org that the rural Texan native “said he believes abortion should be legal only in cases involving rape or incest or when carrying a pregnancy to term would threaten the woman’s life.” The site references an Associated Press article appearing on FoxNews.com Jun 25, 2002.

Neither the Associated Press nor Fox News have responded to LifeSiteNews.com’s requests for the article in question, and Perry’s spokesman also did not respond to inquiries. Two top pro-life leaders connected to Perry, one national and one state level, both told LifeSiteNews.com they were unaware if the claim was accurate.

However, one leader, Texas Right to Life executive director Elizabeth Graham, told LSN that Perry did not support exceptions for rape and incest.

“Governor Perry has been consistent in his position in that he opposes all abortion and he recognizes that there are very rare instances in which an abortion may be necessary to prevent the death of the mother,” said Graham.

Texas Alliance for Life founding executive director Joe Pojman, Ph.D., said a recent sonogram bill that excluded children conceived in rape or incest, as well as other exceptions, had not been influenced towards including the exceptions by the governor’s office.

Two local pro-life leaders sound off

The two state pro-life leaders LifeSiteNews.com spoke with were enthusiastic about Perry, although they conceded that the governor erred considerably at least once.

“Almost all the time he’s correct, but this time he wasn’t,” said Pojman, referring to the Giuliani endorsement.

Texas Right to Life’s Graham also said that the Giuliani endorsement was a surprise and a “departure from his typically pro-life views.” “It was just surprising because Gov. Perry has never been compromising with life,” said Graham, who says she tried to talk Perry out of what she described as a purely political move.

The leaders’ faith in Perry’s pro-life beliefs, however, appeared unshaken.

Pojman, a former aerospace engineer who has worked with Perry on pro-life issues since 1999, recalled the candidate’s rumored “serious arm twisting” in the state Senate as lieutenant governor to speed passage of a parental notification law, a legacy followed up by a record of hard work against abortion.

“This issue really is dear to his heart, he understands it and he has always made it a priority,” Pojman said. “He’s not necessarily going to put it in every speech because he knows he’s got to get elected, but ... he’s not going to run from it, because it’s just who he is.”

Peter J. Smith contributed to this report.


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Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." Shutterstock
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‘Sick and twisted’: Down’s advocates, pro-life leaders slam Richard Dawkins’ abortion remarks

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By Dustin Siggins

Advocates on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as pro-life leaders, are slamming famed atheist Richard Dawkins’ statements made on Twitter earlier today that parents have a moral responsibility to abort babies diagnosed in utero with Down’s.

During a shocking Twitter rant, Dawkins responded to questioners saying that it was "civilised" to abort Down Syndrome babies, and that it would be "immoral" to choose not to abort babies diagnosed with the condition.

He said that his goal is to "reduce suffering wherever you can," indicating that unborn children cannot suffer, and that unborn children don't "have human feelings."

In addition to being scientifically challenged - unborn children can feel both pain and emotions - Dawkins' comments drew criticism for his callousness towards children with disabilities.  

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus"

"It's sick and twisted for anyone to advocate for the killing of children with disabilities," Live Action President Lila Rose told LifeSiteNews. "Dawkins's ignorant comments serve only to further stigmatize people with Down syndrome.

"While many people with Down syndrome, their families, and advocacy groups are fighting discrimination on a daily basis, Dawkins calls for their murder before they are even born," she said. "Those with Down syndrome are human beings, with innate human dignity, and they, along with the whole human family, deserve our respect and protection."

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, told MailOnline that, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, "People with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives, they also make a valuable contribution to our society."

A spokesperson for the UK disabilities charity Scope lamented that during the "difficult and confusing time" when parents find out they are expecting a child with disabilities, they often experience "negative attitudes."

"What parents really need at this time is sensitive and thorough advice and information," the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan agreed with Rose’s assessment. "Advocates of abortion for those 'weaker' than others, or of less physical or intellectual dexterity, should remember that each of us is 'lesser' in some or most respects," he said.

According to Donovan, "we deliver a death sentence on all of humanity by such cruel logic."

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus" he said.

One family who has a child with Down syndrome said Dawkins was far from the mark when he suggested that aborting babies with Down syndrome is a good way to eliminate suffering.

Jan Lucas, whose son Kevin has Down syndrome, said that far from suffering, Kevin has brought enormous joy to the family, and "is so loving. He just has a million hugs."

She described how Kevin was asked to be an honorary deacon at the church they attend in New Jersey, "because he is so encouraging to everyone. At church, he asks people how their families are, says he'll pray for them, and follows up to let them know that he has been praying for them."

It's not just strangers for whom Kevin prays. "My husband and I were separated for a time, and Kevin kept asking people to pray for his dad," said Jan. "They didn't believe that Kevin's prayers would be answered. Kevin didn't lose hope, and asking people, and our marriage now is better than ever before. We attribute it to Kevin's prayers, and how he drew on the prayers of everyone."

"I don't know what we'd do without him," said Jan.

Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Kevin said that his favorite things to do are "spending time with my family, and keeping God in prayer." He said that he "always knows God," which helps him to "always keep praying for my friends."

"I love my church," said Kevin.

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey , 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child.

Despite this, it is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 


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President George Bush takes the ice bucket challenge in a video released this week.
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What’s wrong with the viral ‘ice bucket challenge’? A lot, say pro-life leaders

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By Dustin Siggins

Pro-life leaders in the U.S. are warning about ethical problems with the viral "Ice Bucket Challenge" that has raised over $15 million for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease since late July, making its way to the top of American politics, and the entertainment and business worlds in the process.

In recent days, former president George W. Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, TV hosts Oprah Winfrey and Jimmy Fallon, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have all had ice-cold water dumped on their heads in support of the effort.

They have been joined by many thousands of everyday Americans eager to do their part to raise funds to find a cure for the fatal neurodegenerative disease.

However, pro-life leaders from Patheos blogger Father Michael Duffy to the American Life League (ALL) are all pointing out that the ALS Association, which is behind the wildly popular fundraising effort, funds and otherwise supports embryonic stem cell research.

Instead, they are urging that pro-life people who want to participate in the ice bucket challenge send their donations to other charities that don't have similar ethical issues.

Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of an unborn child. This is unlike adult and umbilical cord stem cell research, which are considered ethical.

A spokesperson from the ALS Association admitted to American Life League in an e-mail that while the organization "primarily funds adult stem cell research," they are "funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC)..."

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"It is noble to combat a deadly disease,” Live Action president Lila Rose said in a statement provided to LifeSiteNews, but added that “it's such a shame that the ALS Association...chooses to support research that thrives from experimenting on and killing tiny, innocent human beings."

"Embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of pre-born people, is inherently unethical and a violation of fundamental human rights, and even materialists must admit that promises of its benefits have failed to deliver," continued Rose. "There is no good reason to condone this practice; in fact, all it does is taint the ALS Association, whom I'd otherwise be happy to support."

In the e-mail to American Life League, ALS Assocation Spokesperson Carrie Munk defended the organization, saying that the embryonic stem cell research is being funded by an outside donor, and "the stem cell line was established many years ago."

She added that "under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future," and that currently "donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project."

At least one Catholic archdiocese has spoken up about the problematic relationship between ALS Assocation and unethical research.

"We appreciate the compassion that has caused so many people to engage in” the ice bucket challenge,” said a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. “But it's a well established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that ends must be morally licit."

Both Fr. Duffy and the archdiocese have recommended money be sent to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa. It is an organization that exclusively researches with adult stem cells. 

One D.C.-area Catholic, Robert Vega, wrote on Facebook that "in light of the absolute dignity of human life and necessity to defend it...I have taken down my Ice Bucket video, untagged myself from my nomination video, and encourage anyone to whom I may have spread the Challenge to do the same."

Embryonic stem cell research, which was a major controversy throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, has quietly, although decidedly, become less popular after many of the exalted promises of its proponents failed to materialize. As LifeSiteNews reported, in 2012 California and Maryland funded a fraction of the embryonic stem cell research projects that they did in 2007. Likewise, Maryland funded nearly twice as many stem cell research projects in 2012 as it had in the prior year -- but only one of the grants was done for an embryonic research project.


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Catholic couple fined $13,000 for refusing to host same-sex ‘wedding’ at their farm

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By Kirsten Anderson
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Robert and Cynthia Gifford

The New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) has ruled that the Roman Catholic owners of an Albany-area farm violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple when they declined to host the couple’s same-sex “marriage” ceremony in 2012.

Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who own and operate Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, were ordered by DHR Judge Migdalia Pares and Commissioner Helen Diane Foster to pay $10,000 in fines to the state and an additional $3,000 in damages to the lesbian couple, Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin for “mental pain and suffering.” 

Additionally, the Giffords must provide sensitivity training to their staff, and prominently display a poster highlighting state anti-discrimination laws.

The Giffords’ attorney, Jim Trainor, told LifeSiteNews that the two-year-legal drama and resulting fines all stemmed from a single brief phone call in 2012 that caught his clients off guard.

“The entire interaction between the Complainants and the Giffords transpired during a two to three minute telephone conversation which, unknown to Mrs. Gifford, was being tape recorded,” Trainor said.

“After communicating the fact that they chose not to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies at the farm because to do so would violate the Giffords’ sincerely held beliefs (that God intended marriage to be between a man a woman only), Mrs. Gifford invited the couple to visit the farm to discuss handling their wedding reception, which the couple refused.” 

The Giffords draw a line, Trainor explained, between a ceremony that solemnizes a homosexual relationship and a reception that celebrates the union after the fact.  To participate in the former, they argue, would be a violation of their own religious beliefs, especially because marriage ceremonies on the farm typically take place in and around the couple’s home, where they live full-time and are raising their two children. 

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But the Giffords are willing to serve gay couples in other ways – for example, they allowed another lesbian couple to throw a birthday party for their adopted child on the farm.

Trainor said he believes the decision by DHR goes too far in that it seeks to regulate what the Giffords can or cannot do in their own private home, even though state law only requires “places of public accommodation” to adhere to anti-discrimination laws.

“They consider the farm their home,” Trainor said. “They live there, they work there, they raise their kids there.”

Trainor also said that the Judge and Commissioner should have taken into account the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which came down weeks before the DHR notified the Giffords of their decision.

“We're disappointed that neither the Administrative Law Judge nor the Commissioner considered the Gifford's Constitutional (1st Amendment) rights, including the right not to be compelled to participate in a ‘marriage’ ceremony which violates their own religious beliefs,” Trainor said. 

Trainor said he and the Giffords are evaluating their options for further legal action.

The Giffords could simply ask the DHR to reconsider their decision, but Trainor said he doubts that approach would be successful. In order to formally appeal the ruling the couple would have to go to the New York State Supreme Court. 

But there is another option: The Giffords could file a fresh lawsuit in either state or federal court challenging the constitutionality of the DHR ruling.

While religious liberty has been a hot topic in federal court lately, Trainor said New York’s state constitution “actually offers a lot” of protection when it comes to religious freedom. “Many people view it as more expansive than the U.S. Constitution in terms of religious freedoms.”

However, Trainor emphasized that the Giffords have not yet decided which avenue, if any, they are planning to take in terms of pursuing further legal action.

In the meantime, the Giffords will continue hosting wedding ceremonies and receptions at the farm, Trainor said. However, they are considering hiring a dedicated employee to handle the ceremonies in order to avoid having to directly participate in any future same-sex “weddings.”


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