Gov. Perry Favors a Constitutional Amendment on Abortion

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First gay marriage. Now this. The former champion of local control is reversing himself on issue after issue.

rick full perry.jpg

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Tex.) used to be an outspoken proponent of federalism and states right, even on contentious issues like gay marriage and abortion. After deciding that he'd seek the GOP nomination, however, he started pandering to Federal Marriage Amendment supporters who want to impose their traditional definition of marriage on the whole country, even places like New York, where the duly elected legislature voted for same sex marriage.

Perry's reversal prompted me to write that he "has shown himself to be a 10th Amendment hypocrite whose credibility on any issue related to federalism should never again be trusted."
Alas, my cynicism was warranted. The latest flip flop: having formerly said that abortion should be decided at the state level, Perry now insists that issue also warrants a constitutional amendment.

Here is what Perry argued before he changed his mind: "You either have to believe in the 10th Amendment or you don't," he said. "You can't believe in the 10th Amendment for a few issues and then something that doesn't suit you say, 'We'd rather not have states decide that.'" Just so.

Life News explains what happened next:

The Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser asked Perry to understand the importance of examining abortion through a federal lens... Now, according to a Houston Chronicle report, Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger says the Texas governor and potential Republican presidential candidate, backs a federal amendment. "Gov. Perry is proudly pro-life and successfully championed strong pro-life legislation in Texas including parental consent, this year's sonogram bill and a budget that significantly defunds abortions in Texas," she said. "The governor has long supported overturning Roe v. Wade, and would support amending the U.S. Constitution, with the backing of Congress and the states, to protect innocent life."

Anti-abortion groups are treating this as if they've won a concession. In reality, there's no chance that a constitutional amendment banning abortion is going to pass, so the effect of this back-and-forth is all downside for them: a presidential candidate who'd have reliably nominated anti-Roe vs. Wade judges has just been made less palatable to a general electorate.

As for Perry, he's reinforced the impression that he'll cave on matters of federalism at the first sign of political expediency. Granted, he is hardly alone in being opportunistic about states rights and local control, but it is strange that he made such a point of touting his 10th Amendment bona fides and waxing eloquent on the beauty of local decision-making, only to quickly reverse himself after the inevitable blow-back. Was he unaware that social cons would object? Then again, few voters actually care about federalism, so maybe these flip flops only help his electoral chances. I wouldn't be surprised if he reverses himself on medical marijuana next.


Image credit: Reuters

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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