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The Rick Perry Primer: His Record on Choice

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Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) is expected to announce his candidacy for president this weekend.

Perry is Texas' longest-serving governor, having succeeded George W. Bush in 2000, and his nascent campaign is getting a ton of attention. But what do we really know about Rick Perry?

Well, my staff and I have been working to answer that question, sifting through voting records and other material as several individuals declared their intention to run for president. This is part of our work to connect the personal with the political. How a candidate voted on choice or what actions he or she took as governor tell us a lot about what he or she would do if elected president.

In this spirit, we recently analyzed the records of Gov. Perry and 11 other announced and potential GOP presidential candidates.

Gov. Perry's choice-related actions as governor of Texas are dominated by anti-choice positions.

So, what kind of effect do these laws have on women's freedom and privacy?

Many of the laws he signed inject political interference into women's private decision-making. Gov. Perry signed into law a measure that would require women to receive a state-mandated lecture that includes medically inaccurate information before they can access abortion care. He then signed additional legislation amending the law to force some women to make two trips to the provider before receiving abortion care.

Just this year, Gov. Perry signed into law a bill requiring that a woman seeking abortion care undergo an ultrasound--even if she does not want one, and even if her doctor does not recommend it.

He's taken strong stances in support of anti-choice "crisis pregnancy centers" (CPCs). One law he helped to enact established "choose life" license plates, which allocate funding for CPCs. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas has been a leader in documenting how CPCs often mislead, misinform, harass, and intimidate women. A recent investigation found that several CPCs in Texas had racked up numerous safety and privacy violations.

And how's this for supporting anti-choice ideology? Gov. Perry signed a proclamation declaring April 2009 "Abortion Recovery Awareness Month" in Texas. The proclamation claims that abortion "often leads to lasting emotional and mental health problems for the mother..." Perry is not alone in the primary field, as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty also signed a similar proclamation in his state. This proclamation uses recycled and inflammatory anti-choice rhetoric that's out of step with sound science. Just check out the studies that have examined the wide range of complex experiences and feelings women have regarding abortion.

We have talked a lot about our concerns with Gov. Perry's record, but I assure you that we report the good and the bad. Gov. Perry has taken a couple of pro-choice actions. For example, Gov. Perry signed into law a measure that improves sex education for young people. And in 2003, he enacted a law ensuring that health plans that cover prescription medication also cover birth control. However, Perry effectively reversed this law two years later when he signed into law a measure allowing insurers to offer two health plans to employers--one plan that guarantees coverage of all mandated services, including contraception, and another that does not.

It would be interesting for reporters surrounding him in South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Iowa to ask him his thoughts on the Department of Health and Human Services' recent decision to accept medical experts' recommendation that insurance plans cover contraception without an additional copay.

A handful of pro-choice actions aside, the prospect of President Perry should make us very worried. He has made inflammatory statements indicating how he would govern as an anti-choice president, calling Roe v. Wade "a shameful footnote in our nation's history books" and "a stark reminder that our culture and our country are still in peril."

Let's not forget that the president has tremendous influence over reproductive-health policy in the United States. How much influence? See our publication, The Powers of the President: Reproductive Freedom and Choice.

As the 2012 campaign heats up, NARAL Pro-Choice America will continue to be your source for analysis of Gov. Perry and the other announced and potential Republican candidates.

For now, as the media hoopla surrounds Gov. Perry, we encourage Americans who value freedom and privacy to share this information with friends and family. It's never too early to take a look at the record of someone who wants to live in the White House.

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