All In   |  July 08, 2013

State by state sneak attack on women's health

Chris Hayes takes on the trend of Republicans quietly chipping away at women's reproductive rights in the states. He's joined by Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> i remain excited about the future. and the challenges ahead, but the time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership. today i'm announcing i will not seek re-election as governor of texas .

>> that, of course, rick perry , the butt of a thousand "i forgot the third one" jokes. after announcing today he will not seek another term as fwompb governor, he hinted at exciting future challenges that politics watchers are roughly translating to mean running for president in 2016 . given that perry built up to announcing that he's not running for governor again with a preproduced video plus almost ten minutes of live speechifying about his awesome record of creating jobs, and freedom, and more jobs. given all that, presidential speculation seems like a pretty safe bet, but though it is major big picture political news, there is something far more interesting than what rick perry said today. and that is what rick perry barely mentioned today. he talked in great detail about his record on jobs and the economy, but he spent no time talking in specifics about his antiabortion record, about the pitched political battle that is currently raging at the capitol in austin right now. he identified himself as generically pro-life and made one oblique reference to the special legislative session he authored -- ordered -- without mentioning the prime topic of that special session . the draconian antiabortion bill that was successfully and famously filibustered by democratic state senator wendy davis during the last special session . rick perry 's avoidance of the issue seems familiarly meaning chl when you see how unavoidable it is on the ground in texas at this very moment. people from both sides of the abortion divide started lining up to testify on this bill before dawn today, in the middle of the night . testimony started in the state senate around noon eastern today. that testimony is still going on. senate hearing is now entering its ninth hour. it is a fight that is consuming the state capitol . here's just one example of what texas senators heard today from the folks who lined up overnight to testify.

>> i have never in my life heard so many women have to say, i was raped, but i was lucky, i didn't get pregnant. i hope to never hear this phrase again, but today, in solidarity, i would like to say i was raped, but i was lucky i didn't get pregnant. i do not want an abortion ever. i do, however, have a constitutional right to an abortion, and i want that right protected. and when legislators want to limit my access to this constitutional right, i want to know why, and i expect them to be willing and able to answer questions about why they think they know more about ensuring the health and safety of texas women than texas women and their doctors.

>> tracking public o ppinion on abortion is treacherous business, one of the most difficult issues to get reliable polling on. so much changes depending on how you ask the question. but here's a tip off. watch the way antiabortion republicans are right now fighting this battle l and you won't need polling. the way they're approaching this issue shows even they don't believe they're on the side of popular american opinion. given the chance today to use a high-profile much anticipated nationally watched speech to make the case for the draconian antiabortion bill he is pushing through in texas , rick perry did not say the word abortion. it's the republican m.o. it's the sneak attack. don't talk about abortion, don't say it's your priority, just do it. ohio republicans snuck a laundry list into the state's budget which john kasich signed into a law on a sunday night. or wisconsin governor scott walker signed that bill that was blocked by a federal judge , the one designed to shut down most of his state's abortion clinics, on the friday after the fourth of july in a private ceremony. nothing is more telling than the way republicans are fighting against abortion rights . nothing tips the republican governor's hand more than the fact they refuse to be forthright on this issue. the fact they refuse to talk about what they're doing. it's a sure sign they don't believe the people they represent are behind it. joining me now is evan smith , ceo and editor in chief of the " texas tribune." evan, i found it really interesting, this speech, particularly because it was rick perry talking about jobs and the economy which was supposed to be the rick perry platform that was going to catapult him to the head of the pack in the primary in 2012 . it did not go that way. and i have gotten the sense from people i know around rick perry that he actually, that's the stuff he cares ant. he does not care that much about the abortion issue, yet he also made a political calculation not to talk about this huge battle that everyone in the country has their eyes on.

>> right, he gave it a little bit of time. he didn't focus on it. he said one sentence worth on the subject. really this speech was about rick perry 's record going backward and the thing he's proudest of and the thing if he runs again for president in 2016 , we're going to hear a lot about -- or 2014 -- 2016 , is the economy, the economic factor. since rick perry has been governor, more jobs have been created in texas than the other states combined. whether or not he's responsible personally for any of that, he gets to claim the credit because he's been the guy in office for these 13 years. that's going to be the basis for a campaign. i don't think, at least in a general election campaign, you're going hear an enormous amount about life because nationally the issue does not have as much resonance as it does in texas .

>> in terms of the resonance in texas , i'm fascinated to see what was a mobilization, largely on one side of this issue, to try to block this bill in the last special session has now become a countermobilization, a mobilization on both sides. you have people in color-coded t-shirts going to the capitol, both sides testifying. how novel, how anomalous is this in texas state politics?

>> well, it's enormously surprising to have seen one side take the lead on this. the other side was caught flatfooted. i think as we sit here tonight, chris, there's an antiabortion rally at the capitol. mike huckabee and the duggars and a bunch of people associated with the pro-life side are rallying. the numbers are not as great. when i left my office they were not as great as the numbers last monday when the pro-choice people were rallying. look, there's going to be another rally in favor of abortion rights tomorrow. i think it's anomalous in a sense we haven't seen these kinds of numbers of people come from all over the state and march on the capitol on any issue in a very, very long time. in my 20-plus years of watching capitol, i can't quite remember this many people mobilized on this kind of issue ever before. in that respect, maybe you're right but it was surprising perry didn't make more hay of it today.

>> this is my read of the perry thing, it's the republican party in microcosm. he understands, he's a pretty politically savvy guy. he understands his pathway to the nomination ultimately and to being president if that were to happen is this jobs record. that's what he wants to focus on like a laser. but the republican party base demands this tribute be paid because the people in the base really do care about this issue. they really want to see the representatives go after it and so it's precisely a disconnect that bedevils the republican party writ large.

>> yeah, i think that's true. you have to think if you're rick perry you're running in a field this time in which you need to differentiate yourself from talented politicians. he ran against a aa baseball team worth of republicans last time. he wouldn't beat herman cain . this time he's running against the 27 yankees. major league players. they're all very talented. he needs to differentiate himself some way from them. he's going to stake out turf on the very far right end of the spectrum including on the choice issue and hope that carries him over the line. in a general election , chris, in the end it's going to be the economy. it's going to be the jobs record. what we thought in 2012 would be his big issue, it's going to have to be his big issue in 2016 . the kind of antiabortion rights rhetoric we've heard from perry over time may not play well enough in a general election to get him elected.

>> evan smith from the " texas tribune." thank you so much.

>> thank you.