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Wendy Fontaine Headshot

Fear and Loathing in Texas

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There is a lot of hypocrisy in politics. That's not exactly a news flash. We've all read stories about politicians who tout their family values only to end up getting arrested for beating their wives. We've all watched candidates preach about reforming the economy while investing their own money in companies that outsource American jobs.

But the boldest, most hypocritical words I've heard recently came from Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who this week ridiculed state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) for her 11-hour filibuster of S.B. 5, a bill that would have criminalized abortion after 20 weeks and closed 37 of the state's 42 abortion clinics.

Because Davis was born to a single mother and became a single mother herself at age 19, she should know better than to be pro-choice, Perry said Thursday during a speech at the National Right to Life conference.

"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.

His remarks came just one day after Texas carried out its 500th execution by administering a lethal injection to Kimberly McCarthy. McCarthy, 52, had been found guilty of killing her elderly neighbor during a robbery in 1997. That's a horrific crime, to be sure, but I wonder: had McCarthy been given the chance to realize her full potential? How did her life matter to Perry, whose state far and away leads the nation in death-row executions.

No matter how you feel about abortion, arguing against it by saying "every life matters" while you are, in fact, the nation's top killer of inmates is either disingenuous or downright phony.

Also disturbing are Perry's implicit presumptions that Davis or her mother considered abortion, and that teenagers are the ones seeking to end their pregnancies. In fact, half of the 1.2 million women who have abortions each year in the United States are in their 20s. Sixty-one percent are already mothers. Only 18 percent are teens.

Admonishing Davis for being a single mother is a low blow, a truly undignified attack beneath the office of a governor. But I suspect what drove Perry to his remarks was not hypocrisy or ignorance or even political rhetoric. It was fear.

When people belittle others, it's usually because they feel threatened. And Rick Perry, who advertised his ignorance to the nation last year during a failed presidential campaign, has at least three reasons to feel intimidated.

First, Davis is a Harvard Law School graduate. She's gutsy, articulate and competent enough to hold not only her own office but probably his as well.

Second, Perry was surprised, as we all were, by a groundswell of public support in a conservative state for a woman's right to choose her own reproductive future. Thousands gathered in the halls of the Texas state house and thousands more watched online as Davis literally stood up for something she believes in.

And third... oh hell, what was the third one there? I can't remember.
Oops.