Perry Shifts His Stance on Abortion

Rick Perry clasps his hands while leaving the Glenn Miller Museum in Clarinda, Iowa on December 27, 2011
Rick Perry clasps his hands while leaving the Glenn Miller Museum in Clarinda, Iowa on December 27, 2011

OSCEOLA, Iowa — At a town hall meeting tonight, Gov. Rick Perry said he no longer supported abortion in cases of rape and incest.

As he responded to a question from the audience, Perry said he had undergone a "transformation" after viewing the film The Gift of Life, narrated by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and talking with Rebecca Kiessling, who was conceived during a rape. "She looked me in the eye and said, 'I am the product of a rape,' and she said, 'My life has worth,'" Perry said.

Joshua Verwers, a Sheraton pastor, asked the governor to reconcile what he had told him in November at the Iowa Faith and Freedom dinner — that he was against abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or when it was necessary to save the life of the mother — with his signature on a pledge from the anti-abortion group Personhood USA that bans abortion under any circumstances.

After the meeting, Verwers said that Perry's answer was "perfect" and "from the heart." He said it particularly moved him that the governor had shifted his beliefs after speaking with someone who had been born from rape. Perry's wife, Anita, has been a fundraiser for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault since 2003 and has devoted her efforts to supporting other causes that work to prevent violence against women.

During a Personhood USA teleconference tonight, Perry reiterated his change of beliefs and elaborated on why he decided to sign the pledge: "As I signed that document I will suggest to you that, all I can say to you, was that God was working out of my heart."

Fellow candidates Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich also participated in the call.

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