Gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott was the keynote speaker at the annual “Rally for Life” Saturday afternoon, which filled much of the Capitol’s South lawn with 2,000 activists, church groups and anti-abortion protesters.
The crowd, organized by the Texas Alliance for Life, marched through the streets of downtown Austin chanting and waving signs that read “My Generation Will End Abortion” and “My Abortion Hurt Me.”
Neither Abbott nor his presumed opponent, state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) have made abortion a central theme of their campaigns so far. But Abbott broke the embargo loudly today.
“For a child to have a better chance in life, a child must first have a chance at life,” Abbott said in his 15-minute speech.
Abbott touted his own record, as Texas attorney general, of defending state abortion laws, including 2011’s sonogram law, which requires abortion-seekers to receive a sonogram and listen to a description of the fetus at least 24 hours before they can get the procedure.
He also mentioned his role in upholding HB 2, the sweeping abortion bill that cleared the Texas Legislature this summer despite Wendy Davis’s 11-hour filibuster. The law bans abortions after 20 weeks and imposes new restrictions that have led to the closure of as many as one-third of the state’s abortion clinics.
“I am a reminder that it does not take legs to take a stand. It takes backbone,” he said, in reference to his own use of a wheelchair and Davis’ campaign slogan “Stand With Wendy.”
“The person who led the fight for late term abortion is now running to govern this great state,” he said, referring to Davis’ efforts to beat back House Bill 2.
“She’s partnering with Planned Parenthood to return Texas to late term abortion on demand,” he continued. “They support abortion even when it causes pain to a child in the womb. ”
(Though there is no conclusive evidence that fetuses at 20 weeks can feel pain, most scientific research suggests that brain connections required to process pain are not developed until at least 24 weeks.)
Davis spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña denied Abbott’s allegations. “She fought to stop a law that was an abuse of power by politicians in Austin like Greg Abbott,” Acuña said.
“She trusts women to make their own decisions and will continue to work to make sure that women and mothers are safe and have access to adequate health care,” she added.
Since announcing that she’s running for governor in early October, Davis has distanced herself from abortion, instead focusing on other issues—rolling out an education proposal earlier this month and painting Abbott as soft on predatory payday lenders. A November interview with the Valley Morning Star reported that Davis characterized herself “as a reluctant participant in the abortion debate.”
Her campaign, apparently, has decided that it’s been long enough. Acuña said that Davis will be appearing at a Travis County fundraiser next week with Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and daughter of former Texas Governor Ann Richards.