Did Anita Perry screw up? The wife of Texas Gov. Rick Perry was interviewed by journalist Evan Smith at the Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday, and she told him that she sees abortion as "a woman's right," and while she doesn't personally agree with abortion, "If [women] want to do that, that is their decision."
The moment was largely understood to be a blooper. Smith seemed surprised at Perry's comments. Under the headline, "Anita Perry Accidentally Says Abortion 'Could Be' a Woman's Right," Doug Barry at Jezebel wrote that her statements are indicative of the "indecision, hypocrisy, and illogic that so often echoes throughout the GOP’s talking points."
If it was an accident, it was a happy accident. Rick Perry has a reputation of being an imperious tyrant when it comes to the issue of abortion. This is the man who forced his state's legislature to endure three special sessions in order to ram through an anti-abortion bill that couldn't get passed through regular legislative means. The fact that he shares his bed and life with a woman who disagrees with him on the issue can only help to soften his image, which, regardless of how rigidly anti-abortion Rick Perry may be, is important for any politician with national aspirations.
Both George Bushes let it be known that the Mrs. is pro-choice, and Eric Cantor has highlighted how awesome and tolerant he is of his pro-choice wife, too. Unsurprisingly, once the tide began to turn on the issue of gay marriage, pro-equality Republican wives started popping up, "accidentally" softening their husbands' images.
The timing of Anita Perry's remarks couldn't be more convenient, either. A group of legal organizations and abortion providers filed a lawsuit on Friday, the day before Perry's remarks, contending that Texas' new restrictions on abortion providers present an undue burden on abortion access. The Texas legal team needs to put together a convincing case that Rick Perry and the Republicans who passed the law aren't actually out to dismantle a woman's right to abortion through back-door means, and anything that makes Perry look slightly less fanatical on this issue is going to help build that case. Having a pro-choice wife is an excellent way to look less fanatical!
So Anita Perry's comments may help the defense of the new abortion restrictions in Texas and will paint a warmer, more moderate image of her husband should he try to run for president again. But hey, I'm sure it was all an accidental slip of the tongue, and she probably is feeling really bad about it right now.