Gloria Steinem said Texans should 'dis-elect' Gov. Rick Perry

Posted Friday, Feb. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH - Feminist icon Gloria Steinem said Gov. Rick Perry has without a doubt created a lasting legacy in Texas.

After last session, when the state's longest serving governor and former GOP presidential candidate signed off on plans to shrink funding for family planning -- and revamped the state's women's health care program, excluding Planned Parenthood from participating in it -- she said his place in history became clear.

"He personally will go down in history as an authoritarian, a dictatorial, unacceptable American," Steinem, 78, told the Star-Telegram Friday before speaking to a crowd of more than 800 gathered for the annual Planned Parenthood luncheon at the Omni Hotel downtown.

"This does not compensate for the women who are suffering from the lack of health care because of his actions and the amounts of federal funds this state has lost because of his actions."

She recommended that Texans "dis-elect him, get rid of him, get rid of the guy."

"Can't you impeach him?"

Steinem for decades fought for women's rights, playing a key role in the women's liberation movement and helping to pave the way for others.

Through the years, she has written for magazines, co-founding New York Magazine and Ms. magazine and serving as an outspoken supporter of abortion rights. She helped create many groups such as the National Women's Political Caucus, Women's Action Alliance and the Women's Media Center, from which she advocated for equal rights and economic opportunities for women.

She served as the keynote speaker Friday at Planned Parenthood's annual luncheon, that this year raised more than $230,000 for the organization. Among those attending: U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, state Reps. Lon Burnam, Nicole Collier and Chris Turner, all Democrats from Fort Worth, Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks and Fort Worth City Council members Joel Burns and Kelly Allen Gray.

On Friday, Steinem said women's health care is suffering in Texas mainly because of decisions made by the 2011 state legislature, led by Perry.

It wasn't just that the GOP-led legislature revamped the Texas Women's Health Program, which provides crucial screenings and birth control to women who don't have insurance, but that it prevented Planned Parenthood -- a family-planning group long under fire by abortion opponents because of its separate affiliates that provides abortions -- from participating. The plan was upheld by the courts.

State lawmakers also cut funding for Texas family planning by 66 percent, from $111 million to $38 million, for the current two-year budget. As a result of those cuts, dozens of health centers closed statewide, including 14 Planned Parenthood health centers, one which was in Arlington, according to Planned Parenthood data

Because there are fewer facilities open, Planned Parenthood estimates that 160,000 women a year will lose health care and there could be 23,760 additional births to Medicaid eligible women, which could cost Texas taxpayers as much as $273 million.

"These two actions have jeopardized health care for 200,000 Texas women," Kris Kaiser Olson, board chair for Planned Parenthood, told those gathered for the luncheon. "It's because of your support that the Planned Parenthood centers in Fort Worth are still open."

Olson told the crowd gathered, though, that they need to let their lawmakers know they are supporters of Planned Parenthood because "we will not tolerate women's health being abused any more."

Steinem said there is a fundamental right for all Americans to reproductive freedom.

"He's putting very unfair restrictions on Planned Parenthood, on women's decision or not to have children," she said. "He's punished even those ... parts of Planned Parenthood that don't offer safe and legal abortions."

Steinem made no bones about the fact that her favorite Texas governor is the legendarily outspoken Ann Richards.

"She was 100 percent honest, authentic, shit free," said Steinem, who helped campaign with Richards in the 1990s. "She had the gift of laughter."

She told the crowd she looks forward to visiting Texas some day in the future when residents have put "a worthy successor to Ann Richards" in the governor's mansion.

As for Perry?

"He might be more at home in some parts of Afghanistan because his attitudes toward female human beings more resemble those in other countries," she said.

Anna M. Tinsley, (817) 390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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