THE BLOG
06/28/2013 06:04 pm ET | Updated Aug 28, 2013

Why Rick Perry Thinks Wendy Davis' Health Policy Should Come From Her Own Experience

Texas Gov. Rick Perry may have been trying to "praise" state Sen. Wendy Davis when he said that she "should have learned from her own example," but it certainly wasn't taken that way.

In comments released yesterday, Perry admonished Davis -- the former teen mother and current legislative powerhouse behind the 11-hour filibuster that put a wrench in Texas' extreme and restrictive abortion legislation -- for advocating reproductive choice despite deciding to proceed with her own pregnancy.

"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," he said.

Davis' response?

"I had the privilege of making a choice about the path I chose for my life, and I am so proud of my daughters, but I could never for a moment put myself in the shoes of another woman confronting a difficult personal choice," she said, "and it really isn't for him to make statements like that."

More has been written about Davis than could be read aloud during a month of filibusters, but if we're to truly know what she, Leticia Van de Putte and the women of Texas are up against, look no further than Perry's clueless comments.

Put in context, his remarks are part of a longstanding habit of basing health policy on his personal experience. While Davis, for her part, brings personal experience to her outspoken stance as an advocate for Planned Parenthood and reproductive health options for poor women (as Ann Friedman pointed out at New York magazine, the senator spent portions of her filibuster discussing her own reliance on the organization during her early, lean years), she manages to skirt a nuance that Perry does not: The substance of her decision is not relevant to creating policy -- only the understanding that comes from its circumstance.

By contrast, Perry would like to transmute his exact experience to constituents. Here are three health decisions from the Perry governorship that prove that when it comes to looking out for the health of his constituency, the governor can't see past his own nose:

1. Abstinence-Only Education

Texas has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates and the highest teen birth rate in the United States. And yet, in 2010, Perry turned down $4.4 million in federal funding for comprehensive sex education in favor of state-funded abstinence only education. When, during an interview with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune, Perry was asked to explain why he supported a continuation of abstinence-only education in the face of such grim statistics, Perry's response was: "Abstinence works."

Pressed for a statistic that corroborated that assertion, the governor responded: "I'm just gonna tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works."

2. HPV Vaccinations

The governor famously signed an executive order requiring HPV vaccination for all female sixth-grade students whose parents didn't opt out. When asked early during his presidential primary run, Perry explained, ""I hate cancer. Let me tell you, as a son who has a mother and father who are both cancer survivors."

(It's worth noting that the executive order was never implemented due to backlash from the state legislature and that Perry later slashed funding to Planned Parenthood, which provided 133,691 women with cervical cancer screening in 2010 alone, reported the Texas Tribune.)

3. Stem Cell Development

In perhaps the most egregious example of Perry's myopic health policy, the governor let his famously bad back lead his interest in developing adult stem-cell centers in Texas. In July of 2011, Perry underwent a three-part back surgery that included spinal fusion, nerve decompression and infusion of Perry's own stem cells. The experimental procedure was conducted by the governor's personal friend, a orthopedic spine surgeon named Dr. Stanley Jones who had never performed the surgery before.

Perry vowed to make Texas the center of adult stem cell therapy in the United States, writing to the Texas Medical Board less than a month after his own surgery to advocate adult stem cell therapy. He wrote, in part, imploring the board's members to "recognize the revolutionary potential that adult stem cell research and therapies have on our nation's health, quality of life and economy."

Raising eyebrows, the Texas Medical Board did just as he asked, allowing doctors to use stem cell therapy with the consent of patients. In the intervening years, that move hasn't sat well with federal agents: Jones' stem cell therapy center, Celltex was later reprimanded by the FDA for marketing an unlicensed drug, reported the Houston Chronicle. They went on:

The FDA also sent a warning letter to Texas Applied Biomedical Services, the review board that Celltex has used to comply with the state regulations. Citing a conflict of interest involving two members who participated in the drafting of protocol documents and their review and approval, the letter said the FDA would withhold approval of all new studies reviewed by Texas Applied Biomedical Services and ordered it not to enroll new subjects in clinical trials.

Looking at the health policy born of Perry's personal life, could it honestly be said that legislation from one's own experience is best?