Analysis Abortion

Texas’ Conservative Legislative Leader Says Even He Doesn’t Share Perry’s Anti-Choice Priorities

Andrea Grimes

Governor Rick Perry pandered to the religious right in favor of a 20-week abortion ban at a crisis pregnancy center this week, touting the horrors of medically unproven "fetal pain" issues, but even right-wing Texas legislative leadership says that anti-choice legislation isn't the priority for the 2013 lawmaking session.

Enveloped in the pink, womb-like glow of a Source For Women crisis pregnancy center in Houston, Texas Governor Rick Perry spoke this week about his goal to “to make abortion at any stage a thing of the past,” supporting a ban on abortions after 20 weeks in the state. His enthusiasm has been shared by Texas Right To Life, which is currently shopping around a bill on the ban, though it’s yet to find official sponsorship in the legislature. Perry has made his intentions clear: he wants abortion to be illegal. Period.

“While Roe vs. Wade prevents us from taking that step, it does allow us, the states, to do some things to protect life if they can show there is a compelling state interest. I don’t think there is any issue that better fits the definition of compelling state interest than preventing the suffering of our state’s unborn.”

But Texas’ legislative leadership has a different take on what constitutes a “compelling state interest” for legislators. Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said Wednesday that he’s more concerned about “serious issues,” and that he doesn’t see how an abortion bill “directly affects the agenda of education and transportation and water resources and budget transparency and manufacturing jobs.” He continued, via the Texas Tribune:

“… there are thousands of bills that will be filed as there always are and it sounds like that may be one of them. But the top of the agenda for me will be education, resources, infrastructure, the things that will help Texans cope with the tremendous growth we’re seeing in this state.”

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A number of unsuccessful attempts have been made to “oust Straus” from his position as speaker; he’s unpopular with far-right Republicans and Tea Partiers, but so far has been able to hold on to his title since taking it on in 2009, and it’s unlikely he’ll be unseated in 2013.

If even the voice of the Texas Legislature thinks Perry’s got mixed-up priorities in championing a 20-week ban, what are the real chances of its success in the lege? Especially when science and common sense doesn’t lend itself to extreme legislation like this?

Much of the rhetoric surrounding a 20-week ban centers on the issue of fetal pain despite the fact that no credible, objective medical evidence supports its existence before the third trimester. And only a small percentage of abortions happen at 20+ weeks, the vast majority for a variety of systemic, sad, and important reasons that do not generally, as anti-choice legislators seem to believe, include “Ignorant, heartless floozies changing their mind because today ends in ‘y.'”

As NARAL Pro-Choice Texas executive director Heather Busby told Rewire:

“The circumstances are usually something tragic. There are any number of fetal anomalies, health problems that come up that could be life threatening. It’s impossible for any lawmaker to contemplate every exception that could be needed.”

Rewire contacted Gov. Perry’s office to find out whether he supported any exceptions to a 20-week abortion ban, such as those for rape, incest or the life of the pregnant person, but his office demurred, saying only that “those details will be worked out by the Legislature.”

It’s appropriate, then, that Perry would lend his support for this yet-to-be-filed bill at the Source for Women, the crisis pregnancy center that he called the “future” of the Texas Women’s Health Program … despite the fact that it provides no medical care whatsoever. Why get into silly things like details that affect the lives of living, breathing Texans when political pandering looks so much better?

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