Analysis Politics

Rick Perry Changes His Tune on Social Issues at the Slightest Complaint from Religious Fundamentalists

Andrea Grimes

The best way to find out what a Perry presidency would look like for women and social issues writ large? Look at what far-right, conservative, religious and evangelical power players want him to do; whatever it is, he'll do it.

Now that Rick Perry has joined the GOP presidential fray, many folks are trying to figure out just what a Perry presidency would look like from a number of angles. Naturally, we here at Rewire care what it would look like in terms of reproductive health and women’s rights, and we’re hardly alone. Nancy Keenan of NARAL has laid it out pretty clearly, saying that the “prospect of President Perry should make us very worried.”

There are many solid reasons to think this: here in Texas, where I live, he’s gleefully signed into law a mandatory sonogram bill and watched his buddies in the state legislature quite successfully do all they can to deny funding to Planned Parenthood and Central Texas Health, the only publicly-funded group in Texas that provides abortion care. He has long been a champion of religious-affiliated and anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers, one of the few groups in this year’s budget crisis in Texas that actually saw their funding increase, while the vital Women’s Health Program budget was slashed.

Perry’s record is certainly worthy of scrutiny. But there’s a more telling way of finding out what a Perry presidency would look like for women: looking at what far-right, conservative, religious and evangelical power players want. Why? Because a Rick Perry presidency will not be about Rick Perry’s beliefs. The man has built a career out of well-timed, well-executed pandering, and we have no reason to believe that would stop once he moves into the White House.

As governor, he’s refused to tap into the Rainy Day Fund that he helped create nearly a quarter century ago, thanks to the Tea Party philosophy that says a problem that can’t be solved with private money isn’t, well, a problem. Once upon a time in 2007, he mandated that girls in Texas receive the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine, then reneged when social conservatives threw fits about the shot encouraging promiscuity. As for immigration, Perry was the first governor to sign a DREAM Act and once criticized Arizona’s racist SB 1070 and supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants–before, of course, he realized that social conservatives are no fans of immigration. Last week, he told a New Hampshire group that he has hardened his formerly immigrant-friendly stance, saying, “you gotta come up with a way that clearly stays away from this issue of making individuals legal citizens of the United States if they haven’t gone through the proper process.”

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Perhaps most maddeningly for fans of both logic and equality, Rick Perry supported states’ rights on gay marriage, until a few weeks ago, battered by criticism from social conservatives, he said that in fact he meant that he supports a federal ban on gay marriage. He has similar views on abortion: states’ rights, sure, when that’s the right soundbyte, but mainly just make it illegal everywhere.

It’s tempting to call Perry out on his flip-flopping ways, but the fact is, he’s actually quite consistent: whenever Perry does something the far right doesn’t like, they tell him so, and then he changes his mind to fall more in line with their ideas. This is great if you’re a social conservative, because you can sleep easy knowing there’s an old, Jesus-freaky white dude out there somewhere poised to tell Rick Perry what to do. For those of us who champion choice, acceptance, affordable medical care and social equality, however, we’ll be tossing and turning.

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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