Now that Rick Perry's wife Anita has made news by seemingly agreeing that abortion is a "woman's right," the Texas governor and former presidential candidate has said that his wife clearly misspoke. "From time to time we’ll stick the wrong word in the wrong place, and you pounce upon it,” Perry said to reporters on Tuesday. Anita made the statements during an interview at the 2013 Texas Tribune Festival last weekend. And while Texas's first lady clearly found the question of abortion rights to be a "difficult" one, her answer sounded anything but off the cuff:
To be clear, nowhere in Perry's answer does she seem to agree with the idea of abortion. She is against it. She supports the omnibus Texas state law placing a whole bunch of restrictions on the procedure in her state. The question, it seems, is whether she admitted to being pro-choice or not. In other words, does Perry believe abortions are a decision best left to the woman? Here's how she framed Texas's new law, just before her more quotable bits of the interview: "It was trying to protect women's rights and their safety if a woman decides to go ahead and make that decision." She added:
"I believe there are only four countries in the world that allow abortions after 20 weeks. And Texas was one of them. So you went from 24 to 20. So, in that aspect, Is that the war on women? No I don't really see that as the war on women. I see that as protecting women."
So far so good on the anti-abortion front. Here's where it gets tricky, when the Tribune asked Anita what her response is to women who ask her to stand with them on women's rights, presumably including abortion: "That's really difficult for me," she said "I see it as a woman's right, if they wanna do that, that's their decision. They have to live with that decision."
In the interview, Anita is asked to confirm what she just said. Because if Rick Perry's wife just came out as pro-choice, that's big news. Her answer? "No... I think it goes back to the states, and Texas has decided that no that's not what we want in the state." She continued: "I don't really think that's making news. Yeah that could be a woman's right... I don't agree with it, that's not my view. But I'm not going to criticize Wendy Davis," she added.
While it doesn't really sound like Perry misspoke in that interview, it is quite possible that her "woman's right" quote was overblown. The full exchange does illustrate that Perry's wife is not a supporter of legislation that would preserve a woman's right to choose, even if she expresses that view in more productive, contradictory language than we're used to hearing on this divisive issue. She supports Texas's new law. Her decision to stay out of the anti-Wendy Davis fray on this one might be a good image booster in future showdowns on this issue, sure. But it doesn't mean that the women of Texas have a secret pro-choice ally in the governor's mansion.