Rick Perry publicly scolds wife for falling out of line on abortion rights

Texas Governor Rick Perry does not approve.

We all know where Rick Perry stands on abortion (and how hypocritical that stance has proven to be). He’s earned our scornful GIFs and been rejected from national office, in part due to how extreme and conservative his views are on issues like abortion and gay marriage. And while he’s spoken about the delight he feels in pissing off reproductive health advocates, I doubt he’s getting as much joy out of pissing off his latest abortion rights foe: his wife.

As seen in the video above, first lady Anita Perry was asked about abortion rights  during an interview last weekend at the 2013 Texas Tribune Festival. Her words are willful and unambiguous. She refers to abortion as “a woman’s right” *twice* and states that while she personally may not approve, she doesn’t feel that it’s something that she or the state should be able to decide. If you think I’m somehow exaggerating or twisting her words just to recruit more players to Team RJ, think again. There’s video and a transcript:

INTERVIEWER: Your view is: governor’s got it right, the administration has it right?

ANITA PERRY: Well, 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.

INTERVIEWER: Mrs. Perry I want to be sure that you didn’t just inadvertently make news. Are you saying that you believe that abortion is a woman’s right — to make that choice?

PERRY: It is not mine. It is not something that I would say for them.

INTERVIEWER: Do you believe that the state is attempting to say for them? And that if the governor and the administration had its way it would say for women that it is not their right?

PERRY: I think it goes back to the states and Texas has decided that no that is not what we want in the state.

INTERVIEWER: But your personal point of view is that it’s a person’s decision within the law to make that choice?

PERRY: Well I don’t really think that’s making news. I mean, I think that yeah, that could be a woman’s right. Just like it’s a man’s right if he wants to have some kind of procedure.

The emphasis is added, but the words are all Perry’s. In short, this is a grown ass woman expressing her grown ass opinion, which happens to be that abortion access is a woman’s right. Period.

You’d think this would be an open and shut case of a wife and her husband having different politics. It’s been known to happen, even to conservatives. In fact, this whole episode reminds me of a certain other First Lady who not only broke with her husband in acknowledging that sexism exists, but actually came out in favor of legal abortion and gay marriage — unfortunately only after her husband had completed his 8-year Presidency.

Alas, this is one situation in which George W. Bush has proven to be a more feminist politician than his Texas comrade. Rick Perry is, incredibly, not content to tell the women of Texas what to do with all their fancy opinions and attempts at claiming rights unless his wife is included in that group. So despite the fact that Ann Perry’s comments were straightforward, and that she repeated them several times, Perry is walking them back, saying that his wife “misspoke” and stuck “the wrong word in the wrong place”.

It’s actually fascinating to see such a public display of  patriarchy at work on an interpersonal level. As Jessica said on Twitter yesterday, Rick Perry must think himself quite gentlemanly to “correct” his wife when she speaks out of turn. I guess when a politician has made his distrust and disrespect towards women a cornerstone of his policies, I shouldn’t be surprised when he dogs out his own wife. Still, it’s pretty exceptional that in 2013, a prominent politician can get away with putting words in his wife’s mouth when she has made it clear that she has an opinion to the contrary. Should we still need to check with our husbands before we vote or own property, too?

Amanda Marcotte thinks the comments are less accidental than they seem, but I’m not convinced. Perhaps I’m less cynical than she, but this seems like a clear case of one woman expressing an opinion that differs from her husband, and him doing everything in his power to stuff that cat back in the bag.

I can only see one silver lining to all this: there may be at least one potential candidate for Texas Governor who sees a little more eye to eye with the current First Lady.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman started blogging with Feministing in 2008, and now runs partnerships and strategy as a co-Executive Director. She is also the Director of Youth Engagement at Women Deliver, where she promotes meaningful youth engagement in international development efforts, including through running the award-winning Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Lori was formerly the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and has also worked at the United Nations Foundation on the Secretary-General's flagship Every Woman Every Child initiative, and at the International Women’s Health Coalition and Human Rights Watch. As a leading voice on women’s rights issues, Lori frequently consults, speaks and publishes on feminism, activism and movement-building. A graduate of Harvard University, Lori has been named to The Root 100 list of the most influential African Americans in the United States, and to Forbes Magazine‘s list of the “30 Under 30” successful mediamakers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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