Perry takes swipe at Davis at right-to-life gathering

Posted Thursday, Jun. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry took a personal swipe at state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat who conducted a more than 11-hour filibuster this week to help kill a controversial abortion bill he supports.

Perry made these comments Thursday during the opening session of the 2013 National Right to Life Convention at the DFW Hyatt Regency Hotel, where he also said he has delayed announcing his future political plans because of the second special session he has scheduled to start Monday.

“It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example: that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential; that every life is precious,” Perry told the crowd.

Davis — who has openly talked about how she, by the age of 19, was a divorced, single mother, working two jobs and raising her child as they lived in a trailer park — quickly fired back at the governor.

“Rick Perry’s statement is without dignity and tarnishes the high office he holds,” she said. “They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view.

“Our governor should reflect our Texas values,” she said. “Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test.”

Davis has twice filibustered, once in 2011 over the state budget and once earlier this week over the abortion bill. Each time, Perry called lawmakers back to work in a special session.

In 2011, the governor called Davis a “show horse.”

On Thursday, he got more personal.

“Who are we to say that children born into the worst of circumstances can’t grow to live successful lives?” he said, adding that even Davis “was born into difficult circumstances.”

“I know she’s proud of where she has found herself in life,” Perry told reporters after his speech. “I’m proud that she has been able to take advantage of her intellect and her hard work, but she didn’t come from particularly good circumstances.

“What if her mom had said, ‘I just can’t do this, I don’t want to do this.’ At that particular point in time I think it becomes very personal for us.”

‘Mob tactics’

Perry said he is disappointed in how the first special session ended Tuesday.

He initially called lawmakers back to work in late May to address interim redistricting maps for the legislature and Congress. He later added other measures including a top-priority abortion bill geared to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require that all procedures take place in a surgical center. Estimates show the measure could lead to the closure of 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics.

The abortion bill ran into trouble Tuesday, on the last day of the session, after Davis began her filibuster.

Late that night, chaos erupted in the Texas Senate when senators tried to take a last minute vote on the bill after ending Davis’ filibuster — and observers in the gallery drowned out senators’ voices, preventing them from knowing whether they had cast a vote for the measure.

Hours after the special session expired at midnight Tuesday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst acknowledged that votes cast in the chaotic chamber — capturing national attention — came after the midnight deadline and were not valid.

“We witnessed the extremes the pro-abortion forces will resort to in order to further their cause,” Perry said. “They demonstrated that, even if they lose at the ballot box, even if they come up short in attempts to stall on the Senate floor, they will resort to mob tactics to force their minority agenda on the people of Texas.

“I’m all about honest, open debate, and parliamentary tactics are certainly nothing new, but what we witnessed Tuesday was nothing more than the hijacking of the democratic process,” he said. “This is simply too important a cause to allow the unruly actions of a few to stand in its way.”

That’s why he said he called lawmakers back to work.

Two other bills on tap for the special session: funding for transportation and dealing with sentencing guidelines for 17-year-olds convicted of capital murder.

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller called on the governor to add passing comprehensive sex education to the list.

“Instead of arrogantly lecturing Wendy Davis and other women who have had unplanned pregnancies and faced challenges he can’t begin to imagine, Rick Perry should address his failure as governor to deal honestly with the teen pregnancy epidemic in his own state,” Miller said, adding that Texas has had one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation during his tenure.

Political plans

Calling lawmakers back to work also changes the governor’s own plans.

Perry, a past and potentially future Republican presidential candidate, has said he would announce his political plans on July 1, which is now the day lawmakers go back to work.

So he said he will “push back” any announcement.

“We’ve got work to do in Austin,” he said about his political time line. “That is not on my radar screen.”

The governor has not indicated whether he will seek another term as governor, as Attorney General Greg Abbott prepares to run for the post if Perry steps aside, or begin another presidential bid.

And he didn’t say that his decision would wait until lawmakers are completely through with the special session.

But he did note that his announcement “is not my focus for the moment. It’s on getting the legislature back in.”

Abortion legislation

More than 50 million “children have lost their chance at life” in the past four decades since the Roe v. Wade court ruling made abortion legal, Perry said.

In recent years, state lawmakers have changed Texas law to require parents to be notified and give consent if their minor daughter seeks an abortion.

“We’ve already made some huge steps,” said Attorney General Greg Abbott, who also spoke at the convention. “There’s so much more we have to do.

“Today is our moment and protecting the unborn is our mission.”

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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