From ‘mansplaining’ to ‘shutting the whole opinion thing down’ to ‘putting her in her place’ the media is having a small-scale frenzy (as they should) over conservative Gov. Rick Perry’s correction to his wife Anita’s remarks about abortion made during a state political conference last weekend.
When asked by Texas Tribune editor-in-chief Evan Smith to explain her personal views on abortion, the first lady said the choice was “a woman’s right.” Smith asked Perry: If women tell you women’s rights are an important issue and we hope you’ll stand with us, your view is that the governor and the administration have that right [to dictate legislation regarding abortion]?
“That’s really difficult for me, Evan, because, I see it as a woman’s right. If they want to do that, that is their decision. They have to live with that decision,” said Anita Perry. Hoping to clarify, Smith asked again if Perry did in fact, believe abortion is a personal decision.
“That could be a woman’s right, just like it’s a man’s right if he wants to have some kind of procedure,” she said.
She then went on to say she does not agree with abortion herself, but that she won’t criticize others with differing views, like pro-choice possible candidate for governor and ardent opponent of her husband's abortion legislation, state Sen. Wendy Davis.
Her statement is a pretty huge deal considering Perry’s unabashed draconian pursuit to outlaw abortion as governor of Texas. In January, Perry proclaimed his goal was to “make abortion a thing of the past” and boy, is he succeeding. A champion of massive family planning funding cuts, a full-scale attack on Planned Parenthood and reproductive health centers and not to mention, the highly publicized anti-abortion legislation he prioritized to push through this summer, Perry’s views on abortion are the diametric opposite of “a woman’s right.”
So it didn’t take long for Perry to edit his wife’s comments and play damage control. Bloomberg news reported earlier this week that during a New Jersey campaign event for U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan, Perry told the press his wife misspoke, saying, “From time to time we’ll stick the wrong word in the wrong place, and you pounce upon it.”
But what was he talking about? Which parts, specifically, of what Anita said were wrong or in the wrong place? The Current asked Perry’s office to comment on his comment about his wife’s comment, because apparently no one is allowed to speak for themselves anymore:
“The first lady made it very clear on Saturday that she is pro-life and does not agree with those who choose to undergo an abortion,” said Perry spokesperson Lucy Nashed, in an e-mail. “She was responding to a very specific question, not discussing policy and any attempt to make this more than that is simply ludicrous.”
First, the conversation did involve policy and the state’s control over women’s health. Second, while Anita Perry didn’t think abortion was a good idea for herself, by calling the procedure a woman’s right (not even a ‘choice’ but a fundamental guarantee) she implicitly wouldn’t agree with the view abortion should be “a thing of the past.” We can pretend like drawing attention to her remarks are, “ludicrous” or accept that perhaps, the first lady– a mother, a registered nurse of 17 years, a graduate student of health science and the daughter of a physician– has a mind of her own.
Earlier in the interview, Anita Perry made note of the “strong women” surrounding the governor, in what was likely a subtle effort to alleviate the criticisms of misogyny and sexism her anti-choice husband is known for attracting. “I like to consider myself a strong Texas woman,” she said.
We hope that includes speaking for yourself.