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Thinking about Rick Perry and his Pro-Choice Wife... Political Spouses

7 September 2014 at 11:28:53 AM

Remember when Anita Perry said, in an interview with Texas Tribune, that it was a woman's right to choose to get an abortion? In the context of the discussion below, she said she could believe what she wants to believe and contrasted that with other people.

Really, it was trying to protect women's rights and their safety if a woman decides to go ahead and make that decision. 

Evan Smith even asks her to restate, as I think even he was surprised at her *women's right to choose* stance.  

“Well, that’s really difficult for me Evan, because I see it as a woman’s right,” Perry told Texas Tribune editor-in-chief Evan Smith. “If they want to do that, that is their decision. They have to live with that decision.”

Smith, seeming surprised by Perry’s answer, followed up: “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?”

“It is not mine. It is not something that I would say for them,” Perry responded.

Look starting at 1:50

Washington Post 

Anita Perry is not the first high-powered Texas political wife to break ranks with her hubby over reproductive rights. Shortly after her husband was elected to the presidency, Laura Bush stirred controversy by saying she did not believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. In 1992 her mother-in-law, then-first lady Barbara Bush, jolted the presidential campaign by saying in multiple interviews that abortion was “a personal choice” and that she believed discussions of such matters didn’t belong in a presidential platform. So do the voices of spouses ultimately wield any significant policy weight? It is worth noting that the administrations of Bush I and Bush II were not marked by the significant assaults on reproductive rights that have become the norm in recent years. (President George W. Bush did sign the law against late-term abortion, a procedure that is opposed even by many in the pro-choice community.)...In her Texas Tribune interview Anita Perry said she doesn’t personally agree with abortion, but said of others, “If they want to do that, that is their decision; they have to live with that decision.”

 What happened in the next day or so? Rick Perry *walked back* Anita Perry's comments. 

“From time to time we’ll stick the wrong word in the wrong place, and you pounce upon it,”

Um. No. Anita Perry was very clear about what she said. As Motherjones said 

Memo to first ladies: If you express a remotely controversial opinion, don't bother attempting to defend your remarks. Your husband can do that for you.

There's a larger issue here about whether a spouse of an elected official can have his or her own opinion. Leaving aside any points about whether a spouse *should* express an opinion that might impact, say, a presidential campaign, or whether a spouse should go stand behind some elected official when he or she screws up, etc, is there any reason why, considering this in a neutral way, a spouse CANNOT freely exercise freedom of speech as a citizen of thse good United States? In other words, was there any reason that FOREBADE Anita Perry from saying she's pro-choice other than publicly saying this completely contradicts the public image that Rick Perry chooses to present? Nope. 

Here's an interesting article about Political Activity by Judges Spouses from a few years ago. In 1972, there was a code of judicial conduct that said that "a candidate for judicial office “should encourage members of his family to adhere to the same standards of political conduct that apply to him,” and this was apparently seen as implicitly applying to sitting federal judges as well.". But that was in 1972.  In fact, there was a reversal of a  NJ law that said a judge's spouse couldn't participate in politics.

[T]he trend of modern law … reflects society’s realistic appreciation of the independence of both spouses in marriage and more specifically represents modern awareness and sensitivity to individual freedoms, rights, responsibilities and development….

All of this bespeaks a realist appreciation of the marriage relationship and the nature of the partnership it embodies: “[T]he marital couple is not an independent entity with a mind and heart of its own, but an association of two individuals each with a separate intellectual and emotional makeup.” …

The record before us indicates that no other American jurisdiction, whether by a court having administrative reponsibility for the conduct of judges, a judicial ethics commission, or otherwise, has ever undertaken to forbid or limit spousal public or political activity, with the exception of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Committee on Professional Ethics, whose Opinion No. 865, 20 Record of N.Y.C.B.A. 52 (1965), sought to control political activity of a judge’s spouse. It is pointed out to us that such opinion has never been cited with approval in any opinion or other writing since….

[W]e no longer see any confirmed justification for extending [the] prohibition [on political activity] to the non-judicial spouse…. As to the community’s perception of the spouse’s exercise of that right, emerging concepts of spousal independence and autonomy in activities, development, interests, rights and responsibilities lead us to appraise our earlier assessment of probable public discernment and sophistication as no longer realistic….

So, we see we were able to hear Anita Perry's personal viewpoint about a woman's right to choose. As a citizen, EXCEPT THAT RICK PERRY THEN FELT THE NEED TO JUMP IN and try to make it like it was just a *word out of place* that was misinterpreted by Evan Smith, she had a perfect right to express her opinion. She hasn't said a peep about it since, don't know if any journalist has asked her again, but it would be interesting to see if her opinion has now changed - Stepford Wife style-to be that of Rick Perry's public opinion. 

P.S. There's a whole body of posts from the last few years about *mainsplaining*, which is the idea that a poor poor woman cannot possibly have an opnion or the critical thinking ability to figure out or talk about things for herself without a man doing it for her, just like Rick Perry needed to *mainsplain* Anita Perry's comments.  Kind of sick of hearing it because it's SO obnoxious but here's an example.Academic Men Explain Things to Me 


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