Peter J. Smith

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Who is Rick Perry? - Part II: A Texas governor’s pro-life legacy

Peter J. Smith
Peter J. Smith
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Edited 8.22.2011

This continues from Part One of LSN’s special report: Who is Rick Perry? See Part III,  The case against Rick Perry - pro-life and pro-family concerns

AUSTIN, Texas, August 15, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Texas governor Rick Perry has stepped onto the national stage, officially announcing his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination on Saturday. Perry’s move means that he will face scrutiny on his record, especially from social conservatives looking to see if he will be an asset or a liability on their issues.

When it comes to the life issues, however, Perry has a clear record of promoting the pro-life cause, and is supported by many pro-life leaders, particularly from his own state.

Strong working relationship with pro-life movement

As governor, Rick Perry signed Texas’s informed consent law, the Woman’s Right to Know Act in 2003, and legislation giving unborn children at any point in gestation separate victim status in a crime (the Prenatal Protection Act 2003).

Perry also signed into law a 2005 measure to reorganize the Texas medical board that included two anti-abortion amendments. One amendment included a parental consent consent law, the other included a measure restricting abortion after 26 weeks gestation. The law against very late term abortions allows exceptions in the cases where the mother faces substantial risk of death, “imminent, severe, irreversible brain damage or paralysis,” or if her unborn child has “severe, irreversible brain impairment.”

Perry also made Texas the 10th U.S. state to fund abortion alternatives beginning in 2005.

During the most recent legislative session, Perry declared a new sonogram bill an “emergency” priority, allowing the legislature to swiftly enact the law that requires abortionists to provide women an ultrasound of their unborn child and an opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat before making a decision on abortion.

Elizabeth Graham of Texas Right to Life says that the pro-life community in Texas has enjoyed a “productive and successful relationship with Gov. Perry” for more than a decade, ever since he was elected the state’s Lieutenant Governor in 1998. That position made him president of the state Senate, and Graham said Perry first acted to “restructure the committees in the state Senate so pro-life bills could pass.”

The move, according to Graham, allowed pro-life advocates to bypass hostile Senate leaders and finally get pro-life legislation to the desk of then-Gov. George W. Bush, beginning with a bill requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortion.

“He is very sympathetic, he’s been a very proactive leader in Texas for the [pro-life] cause,” said Graham.

She added that Perry “recognizes that human life begins at fertilization” and is an outspoken defender of human life. Graham added that she was not aware of a time that Perry supported legal abortion; he has been an evangelical Christian since his youth.

She added that Perry has “personally intervened” to help move pro-life legislation forward, and remove legislative obstacles. In the case of one bill, SB 7, Graham said Perry stepped in to give pro-life advocates time to close a loophole in the bill that would have permitted Medicaid funding for abortion in cases of fetal abnormality.

Tenth Amendment, states’ rights, and judges

Perry adheres to a strong 10th amendment, or states rights philosophy, especially on abortion. The 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution iterates that either the states or the people retain governmental powers not explicitly given to the federal government in the Constitution.

Perry has made the case that the states would be in a better position to defend the unborn than the federal government, which has been a prime donor to the abortion industry at home, through subsidizing Planned Parenthood, or funding abortion groups overseas.

The U.S. Supreme Court curtailed the power of the states to restrict or regulate abortion with the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, making abortion a constitutional right, and therefore a federal issue. This has prevented states from passing pro-life laws that would greatly restrict or ban abortion.

Perry, however, has said that while he believes abortion is a matter for the states, he would support a Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Such an amendment would be consistent with his states-based approach, because it would require the common consent of three-quarters of the States and supermajorities in both chambers of Congress.

Graham said that based on her experience, Perry “would be supportive of any measures that Congress sent to his desk that would protect the sanctity of innocent human life.”

She added that Perry also has a proven record of appointing state judges and state Supreme Court justices who interpret the laws and state constitution with a strict constructionist view. Graham said that Perry’s “important legacy” is the mark he has made in shaping the state’s judiciary, making pro-life legislation less susceptible to being struck down by activist judges. 

Pro-life efforts on behalf of stem-cell research

Perry has supported adult stem-cell research, touting its effectiveness over embryonic stem-cell research, which he has opposed. Recently he highlighted the successful medical application of adult stem cells with his own July 1 back surgery. Perry spokesman Mark Miner called told the Texas Tribune in a statement that doctors made “innovative use of [Perry’s] own adult stem cells” to aid the healing process.

Perry has lobbied adult stem cell companies to make their home in Texas.

The Tribune reports Perry wrote the Texas Medical Board that he wanted Texas to “become the world’s leader in the research and use of adult stem cells” and that the board should consider when they write their new rules on stem cell treatments “the revolutionary potential that adult stem cell research and therapies have on our nation’s health, quality of life and economy.”

According to the Tribune, Perry called on state leaders to invest in adult stem cell companies in his 2009 State of the State address, and that same year he awarded grants totaling $7.5 million to adult stem cell pioneers Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Regenerative Medicine and America Stem Cell through Texas’s Emerging Technology Fund.

The governor has also advocated banning human cloning, and has pledged to veto any measure that would provide state funds for embryonic stem cell research.

Perry’s high-profile pro-life leadership

Perry has made personal appearances at rallies and events to promote the pro-life cause.

Perry spoke before 5,000 Hispanic pro-life advocates at Eduardo Verástegui’s recent United for Life (Unidos por la Vida) event in Los Angeles. There he condemned the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, saying “50 million children have lost their chance at life—a tragic legacy of judicial activism and a stark reminder that our culture and our country are still in peril.”

The Texas governor spoke at a Heroic Media fundraiser along with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2010, lamenting that the United States “is in the business of exporting abortion.”

“I’m not happy about that,” said Perry. Tying in his 10th amendment philosophy to the pro-life agenda, he added, “Too bad we can’t protect [unborn children] from the federal government.”

Perry also spoke at Texas’s Rally for Life on January 22, and praised the state for having “taken great strides in protecting the unborn.”

The governor also issued a proclamation naming April as “Abortion Recovery Awareness Month,” making him one of the few U.S. governors to do so.

Next in Part Three: The case against Rick Perry - pro-life and pro-family concerns


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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 email 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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