Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include Sen. Dan Patrick's comments that he lost money overall on the stock.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is campaigning for Texas lieutenant governor as an unapologetic foe of abortion. But prominent abortion opponents want him to explain how he wound up owning stock in the company that makes the Plan B “morning after” pill.
Plan B is emergency contraception designed to prevent pregnancy within 72 hours of unprotected sex. It is highly effective and safe if taken as directed, according to the Food and Drug Administration. And it’s not the same thing as RU-486, the so-called month-after pill, which causes a woman to medically abort a pregnancy without surgery.
But for many activists who want to restrict or ban abortion, the Plan B pill represents the destruction of human life, and in Texas they have long fought to restrict its use or place tougher regulations on it.
Two of these Texas activists say they were surprised to learn that until recently, Patrick had an interest in the company that makes Plan B through his investment portfolio.
“Why in the world is Sen. Patrick supporting it in any way?” asked Carol Everett, founder and CEO of the Heidi Group, which helps girls and women with unplanned pregnancies. “I think it’s a huge blight.”
Likewise, Kyleen Wright, president of the anti-abortion group Texans for Life, said she found Patrick’s past investment in Teva Pharmaceuticals’ stock inconsistent with the senator’s public posture; he is one of the most ardent opponents of abortion rights in the Texas Legislature.
“I’m pretty shocked about it, particularly given the fact that Sen. Patrick has been such a proponent of pro-life everything,” Wright said. “I think it certainly contradicts the reputation he has put out there. I think a lot of people will be very disappointed. I’m very disappointed.”
Patrick acknowledges that he owned stock in the maker of Plan B One-Step — Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals — but says his broker sold it. Patrick revealed ownership in the company in 2010 on his personal financial statement, which covered activity in 2009. The investment was made by Goeb Investments, described as an investment partnership held by Patrick and his wife. (Goeb was the senator’s last name before he changed it to Patrick.)
Though Patrick voluntarily revealed the stock holding to the Texas Ethics Commission, in June, as the Legislature was debating restrictions on abortion, he told The Texas Tribune that he “would not want to have that stock.” Later, in a text message, Patrick said it was both purchased and sold without his knowledge.
“I didn’t personally buy it or know I ever owned it. My stock broker bought and sold it,” he wrote in the message. “The partnership that owns the stock does not own the stock today and apparently hasn’t owned it since 2011.”
Patrick's consultant, Allen Blakemore, stressed that Patrick's broker made the decisions and said the Houston senator had one of the most conservative records on abortion in the Legislature.
“Those are the same pro-life organizations who have given Dan awards for his pro-life voting record and his pro-life stands,” Blakemore said.
Still, Wright and Everett both say they want a complete explanation of the investment.
“When did he sell and how much did he make off of this?” Wright asked. “He needs to explain it to us.”
In a telephone interview Thursday afternoon, Patrick said his broker informed him he lost money overall on the stock — about $4,000 total — and that he hasn't owned any shares in Teva since October 2011.
Patrick, a conservative talk show radio host, has made abortion a key issue in his race to become lieutenant governor. He has blamed Dewhurst, who presides over the Texas Senate, for losing control of the chamber when protesters disrupted proceedings during debate on a restrictive abortion measure. Patrick sponsored the 2011 law requiring women to undergo a sonogram before getting an abortion, and this summer he authored legislation designed to increase oversight of RU-486. New rules on the drug were folded into sweeping new abortion restrictions adopted by the Legislature in July, measures that take effect in late October.
During deliberation of his stand-alone version of the abortion drug regulation bill, Patrick said the legislation excluded Plan B.
“Plan B is used for preventing pregnancies, not for terminating pregnancies,’’ he said.
That’s what the Food and Drug Administration says, too. According to the federal agency, Plan B can prevent pregnancy by stopping an egg from being released from the ovary; by preventing the fertilization process; or, in the event fertilization has already occurred, by stopping the fertilized egg from attaching to the womb. The FDA approved Plan B for over-the-counter use this summer.
“If a fertilized egg is implanted prior to taking Plan B, Plan B will not work,’’ the FDA says in a Q&A about the drug posted on its website.
The controversy centers on what it means to be pregnant and when life begins. According to a 2005 report by the Guttmacher Institute, an advocacy and research organization that promotes abortion rights but produces data cited by both sides, “medical experts — notably the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) — agree that the establishment of a pregnancy takes several days and is not completed until a fertilized egg is implanted in the lining of the woman's uterus.”
Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, an Austin-based abortion rights group, disputes that characterization.
“If you’re already pregnant, it will not work at all. It is in no way causing an abortion. It is contraception,” Busby said. She said critics of Plan B “don’t believe in science so you can't really argue science with them.”