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