Rick Perry delivers the keynote address at a Heritage Foundation event, August 21, 2014.
Photo by Tom Williams/Getty

Rick Perry defends abortion law with … Joan Rivers?


Texas Gov. Rick Perry referenced Joan Rivers’ death while defending a restrictive abortion law during an interview Sunday.

Rivers died at age 81 earlier this month, a week after falling unconscious during a vocal chord procedure at a gastrointestinal clinic—something Perry said might have been prevented had the procedure been done in a hospital.

He was attempting to defend Texas HB2, a bill that, among other things, required abortion clinics to meet the stringent building codes hospitals meet. It’s the bill Wendy Davis donned pink sneakers and stood for 11 hours to filibuster.

The specific restriction would have shuttered more than a dozen of the state’s 19 clinics, but was struck down by a federal judge. Perry said on Sunday he supported it because it made Texas “safer.”

“Clearly, the will of the Texas Legislature–which I agree with–that it is a state’s right to put particular types of considerations into place, to put rules and regulations into place, to make a clinic be as safe as a hospital,” Perry said at the Texas Tribune Festival, when asked about the bill in the context of his arguments against regulation. “It was interesting that, when Joan Rivers, and the procedure that she had done where she died, that was a clinic. It’s a curious thought that if they had had that type of regulations in place, whether or not that individual would be still alive.”

Abortion advocates say the restrictions are medically unnecessary and many medical procedures, like colonoscopies and endoscopies, are performed safely in medical clinics that aren’t hospitals. 

Perry has been openly  considering a second presidential run, appearing regularly on national news networks and speaking out on hot topic issues. Rivers is an odd person for Perry to invoke, as she was an outspoken comic and one of the first to joke about abortion in the early 1970s, shedding light on a taboo issue.

“I was the first one to discuss abortion, and it was very rough. … And I couldn’t even say the word abortion — I had to say, ‘She had 14 appendectomies.’ … And by making jokes about it, you brought it into a position where you could look at it and deal with it. It was no longer something that you couldn’t discuss and had to whisper about. When you whisper about something, it’s too big and you can’t get it under control and take control of it,” Rivers told NPR in 2010.

Abortion, Rick Perry and Texas

Rick Perry defends abortion law with ... Joan Rivers?