Do Americans, even in anxious times, prefer an optimistic leader or an angry one?
On Thursday Texas Governor Rick Perry expressed his determination to pass Senate Bill 5, the Texas bill that would effectively shut down all but a handful of abortion clinics in the state -- and he has advice for Senator Wendy Davis, who bravely filibustered the bill on Tuesday.
Telling the National Right to Life convention that "it's important to remember while we are under an obligation to protect the health and safety of people who live here, we are under no obligation to make things easier for the abortionist," Perry demonstrated his concern for women's health and safety by admonishing Davis, who was raised by a single mother and put herself through Harvard Law despite having had a child at 19.
"Even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances," Perry said, apparently feeling no obligation to use Davis's name or title. "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."
Davis has responded to Perry's comment, remarking that his words "reflect a dark and negative point of view." It seems Perry's intent was to point out that had Davis been aborted, she would not have been able to accomplish what she has, and that by becoming a single teen mother rather than aborting her child she is somehow hypocritical.
Perry's assumption that Davis's life choices and "difficult circumstances" are his to judge shows the egregious pro-life mindset that women are not competent to make their own reproductive decisions. He completely dismisses the idea that Davis fights for reproductive freedom not despite her background, but because of it; that perhaps as a mother herself she is more qualified than he is to speak about the choice to become one.
The social media reaction to Davis's remarkable stand, not to mention the passionate response culminating in a "people's filibuster" by hundreds of her supporters in the Senate, speaks to her bravery and to a strong and growing opposition to Perry's asinine governing principles.
The man who claimed that he would make government "as inconsequential in your lives as possible," who responded to the explosions in West, Texas by dismissing the idea of more regulation of factories, has consistently seen fit to legislate women's bodies and bedrooms with support for the forced sonogram bill (2011) and a promise to pass Senate Bill 5 in another special session starting Monday, which would impose some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country and regulate the state's abortion clinics to the point of shutting down all but five.
Perry turned away billions in health care coverage for poor Texans when he refused the Medicaid portion of the Affordable Care Act in April. More than 25 percent of Texas children live in poverty, including 28 percent of children under the age of six, and in 2012 Texas led the nation in rates of uninsured citizens, with 6 million residents with no health care coverage.
Last year's budget slashing was a direct attack on Planned Parenthood, reported the Austin Chronicle; "Lawmakers arranged a three-tiered system for funding women's health providers, with PP on the lowest rung and with the expectation that in fact there wouldn't be money left to fund any PP clinics."
Perry's message is clear: if you're a Texan fetus, you have every right to personhood, health care and protection under the guidance of watchful government; once you're born, you're on your own.
Davis's actions this week gave voice to Texas women and reproductive rights activists, and galvanized voters hoping for change in a state currently being held in a chokehold by the religious Right.
"This fight has got to continue. We have started something here that they cannot stop," said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, after reading Davis's message of thanks and encouragement to a cheering crowd in the rotunda of the Texas Capitol this week. "Rest up," she told her listeners. "We've got more fights ahead."
She couldn't be more right. With the demise of the Voting Rights Act at the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, Davis may lose her seat; it was only thanks to section 4 of the VRA that Republicans have been prevented from re-drawing Davis's Fort Worth district.