AUSTIN – Gov. Greg Abbott, speaking at the Texas Rally for Life on Saturday, cited the experience of adopting his daughter as the driving force behind his efforts to curtail abortion.
“Years ago, I held a little baby in my arms. Months before that, her mother talked to staff at a crisis pregnancy center. And after the conversation with that staff, the mother decided against abortion and decided to give her baby a chance at life,” Abbott said at the south side of the Texas Capitol, drawing whoops and applause from the crowd of thousands at the rally sponsored by the Texas Alliance for Life.
Abbott and his wife, Cecilia, adopted Audrey after 16 years of marriage.
“That little infant who might never have had a chance at life is now on the dean’s list at college. And I’m even prouder to tell you that that little infant girl is now my 21-year-old daughter that my wife and I had the opportunity to adopt in her infancy,” Abbott said. “We thank God every single day for the very precious gift of our daughter, Audrey, and for the woman who was strong enough to give Audrey a new life with our family.
“That is why I will always fight for life as your governor,” Abbott said, “and I will ensure that every child has a chance at life.”
Abbott has championed restrictions on abortion as governor, touting state measures to ban “partial-birth” abortion, to outlaw selling fetal parts for profit and to require burial or cremation of fetal remains. The first two also are addressed in federal law.
Some Texas laws have been challenged in court, sometimes successfully.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned abortion restrictions approved in 2013 that imposed new requirements on abortion facilities. And a federal judge last year said parts of a law limiting a second-trimester abortion procedure were unconstitutional. The state is appealing.
Some have criticized Abbott and other Republican leaders who oppose abortion for not providing enough support in areas such as health care for women and children
“I believe that women’s health care is life,” said Nichole Miller, 30, of Austin, who was among a small group of demonstrators at the Capitol on Saturday backing a woman’s right to choose abortion. “They are slowly taking away women’s health care and the right to know about our bodies and the right to choose. It’s not so much about having an abortion. It’s the right to choose whether or not family planning is right for you at that time in your life.”
Dr. Brian and Kathy Seastrunk with the San Antonio Coalition for Life, accompanied by their 3-and-a-half-year old son Isaac, spe in favor of pro-life advocates having a presence outside clinics that offer abortion.
The couplehave three biological children and adopted Isaac after his young mother opted against an abortion, Kathy Seastrunk said. After seeing people “praying peacefully” outside her original clinic destination, the pregnant girl followed signs to a facility that offered an alternative, Kathy Seastrunk said.
“Love saved a life that day,” she said.
Abbott urged those at the rally to make their voices heard at the ballot box, pointing to Texas Supreme Court Justice Jimmy Blacklock, who attended the rally along with other officials including Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, Land Commissioner George P. Bush and a number of lawmakers.
The governor appointed Blacklock to fill a court vacancy. Blacklock is running for the post and faces Democratic State District Judge Steven Kirkland of Harris County in November.
“I don’t have to guess or wonder how Justice Blacklock is going to decide cases because of his proven record of fighting for pro-life causes,” Abbott said. Blacklock was Abbott’s general counsel in the governor’s office and worked for him when Abbott was attorney general.
Texas Alliance for Life speswoman Melissa Duncan said it was estimated that at its largest point, there were 5,000 people at Saturday’s rally.