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Gov. Perry's Push To Ban Abortion Takes Another Step

Office of the Governor
Gov. Rick Perry announces his support for a bill preventing abortions after 20 weeks at the Source Pregnancy Center in Houston.

Gov. Perry's announcement this week of the "fetal pain" bill is the latest in his attempts at restricting abortion in Texas; pro-life groups applaud the announcement and pro-choice groups are kicking their opposition into high gear. The governor made his announcement at a pregnancy crisis center, but what exactly is a pregnancy crisis center, and where do they get their funding? Freelance reporter Carolyn Jones investigates. Finally, problems with state-funded CPRIT continue to surface, the latest being an $11 million grant that was not reviewed before it was handed out.

Gov. Perry still pushing for complete ban

On Tuesday Governor Rick Perry announced he will push tougher anti-abortion bills in the upcoming legislative session, which  includes a "fetal pain" law that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. Perry made the announcement at the Source for Women, a pregnancy crisis center in Houston.

"Now, to be clear, my goal -- and the goal of many of those joining me here today -- is to make abortion, at any stage, a thing of the past. While Roe v. Wade prevents us from taking that step, it does allow us -- the states -- to do some things to protect life if they can show there is a compelling state interest. I don't think there's any issue that better fits the definition of compelling state interest than preventing the suffering of our state's unborn. We can not and we will not idly stand by while the unborn are being put through this agony of having their lives ended. Using the adoption process and community support, we can ensure that every child born has a loving home."

Support: Texas Right to Life

Elizabeth Graham is the director of Texas Right to Life, a state-based anti-abortion group, and calls this her organizations "main bill" for the legislative session. She joined Gov. Perry at the announcement, and is advising and supporting Perry as he pushes for these tougher abortion laws.

"If a woman decided to have an abortion because her child was conceived through rape or incest, that decision would have to be made before the 20 week mark. She would not face any sort of penalty [if she sought an abortion after 20 weeks], but the doctor would then be prohibited from performing an abortion at that point."

Opposition: Planned Parenthood of South Texas

Texas supporters for women’s health rights are reacting to Perry’s announcement saying it’s a step backwards for Texas; they are pledging to fight the bills in the legislature and in the courts. However, they acknowledge that it’s going to be a tough battle against the odds.

Jeffrey Hons, president of Planned Parenthood of South Texas, says the last legislative session was a bad one for women’s health rights and this one is looking to be even worse. Hons made a point to address the 20 week pain studies that are playing such a large role in support for the bill.

"The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and many other highly-respected medical institutions do not agree with the assertion Mr. Perry made [about a fetus feeling pain at 20 weeks]."

Pregnancy crisis centers and a woman's choice

Gov. Rick Perry announced his new abortion bill at a pregnancy crisis center in Houston, but what is a pregnancy crisis center? Freelance reporter Carolyn Jones investigates how these anti-abortion facilities are funded with state dollars. Her article is in the current issue of the Texas Observer.

"These pregnancy crisis centers have a religious affiliation, they're driven by a conservative religious ideology, which is anti-abortion, and that is not always obvious to the women walking into these centers. As I said earlier, they don't give equal weight to the choices that a woman might have when she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant... These centers promote parenting and adoption as the only viable choices, and when it comes to speaking about abortion, they will give very graphic descriptions to the woman about what the abortion procedure entails. They will also warn them about the psychological effects of abortion, so for example, thoughts of suicide, say that their chances of infertility and breast cancer will increase after having an abortion... The link between abortion and infertility or breast cancer has been discredited by many studies."

Jones said that $26.3 million worth of state funds has gone towards these pregnancy centers in Texas since 2005, money that is being re-distributed from the state budget for family planning clinics.

State dollars and cancer research

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) is a $3 billion bucket of cash that Texans voted for to fund cancer research in the state. So who decides who gets the money? And how do we make sure it’s not just another political slush fund that somehow makes its way to Governor Rick Perry’s cronies?

As it turns out, it looks there’s been some CPRIT slushing. Nobel Prize winning scientists connected to CPRIT have resigned in disgust, and corruption investigations have been opened to find out how crooked things have gotten at the institute.

Andrew Wheat has been calling for more openness with CPRIT; he is the research director at Texans for Public Justice.

"The most recent revelation has been that one biotech company called Peloton Therapeutics got an $11 million grant in 2010 that never went through any kind of scientific review. One of the significant investors in Peloton is a retired banker, Mr. O'Donnell out of Dallas, who has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the governor and the lieutenant governor of this state."

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi