Many are still applauding Texas lawmaker Wendy Davis‘ heroic filibuster that kept a piece of sweeping anti-choice legislation from effectively outlawing abortion in most of the state. But not Texas governor Rick Perry, who is currently re-grouping by calling another special session of the state senate, speaking at the National Right To Life conference, and appropriating Wendy Davis’ own life story to mansplain why no woman should have the right to choose what happens to her own body.
Really? Yes, of course. Speaking at the NLRC earlier today, Rick Perry used certain details of Davis’ life story in the worst, most offensive, most ad hominem way possible:
“In fact, even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She was the daughter of a single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.”
Translation: Wendy Davis should “learn from her own example” and oppose abortion rights because she accomplished a lot despite coming from a disadvantaged background, and because she chose not to have an abortion herself. Excuse me?
First, that assumes that Wendy Davis (and Wendy Davis’ mother) even wanted abortions in the first place. Abortion was legal when Davis got pregnant at age 18. The fact that she chose to carry her pregnancy to term does absolutely nothing to discredit the pro-choice movement, since the pro-choice movement is about, you know, choices. One of which is “having a baby.”
He’s also trying to discredit her position on the grounds that some women have abortions because they feel they won’t be able to provide their kids with the support they need in order to succeed in life; he’s saying that doesn’t matter, because look at them bootstraps! Wendy Davis went to Harvard, therefore any child of a teen mother could go to Harvard! This is just a rhetorical extension of the “what if your hypothetical child grows up to cure cancer?” argument, which is easily countered with “what if your child grows up to be a serial killer?” Mashed up with the conservative myth that anyone born in America can succeed if they are willing to work hard, of course.
But even if it was possible for every motivated person to rise from a difficult upbringing to achieve great things, it would still be the pregnant woman’s choice whether she wants to introduce a child into those difficult circumstances, or at all. Women have plenty of reasons for ending their pregnancies, not limited to but including being single, being poor, being young, being emotionally ill-equipped, and simply not wanting children at the moment. (One need not be poor to want an abortion, although it’s true that anti-choice measures tend to target the most vulnerable women.) For Rick Perry, a rich white guy, to tell the unwed teen girls of the world that they should be forced to raise children in poverty because it worked out really well for one person, is fucked up in a million and one ways.
And this goes without saying, but bringing Wendy Davis’ own life story into it to try to condescend to her that “she should know better” is just the height of offensive. Luckily for the pro-choice movement, his remarks only served to further expose the fact that anti-choice rhetoric has zero legs to stand on.