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Houston investor Andrew White says he’ll protect abortion rights if elected governor despite personally believing abortion to be wrong. During the debate for the Democratic nomination to Texas governor, White declared that a national abortion rights leader, Cecile Richards, said there’s room for people like him in "her movement."
We wondered about that.
Richards, the Texan who has stepped down as president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, doesn’t support White’s candidacy. She told us by email that she backs the February 2018 endorsement of Lupe Valdez for governor by Planned Parenthood Texas Votes.
White and Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff, are vying in the May 22, 2018, Democratic runoff for the opportunity to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in November.
White cites Richards
White made his claim citing Richards, whose mother, Ann, served as governor from 1991 through 1994, during the May 11, 2018 Democratic governor’s debate in Austin.
At the debate, White initially said that as governor, he’d veto anti-abortion legislation and approve legislation reversing abortion restrictions put in place by Republicans who’ve held majorities in both chambers of the Texas Legislature.
Moderator Gromer Jeffers followed up: "Wendy Davis, the 2014 (Democratic) nominee for governor, told her social media followers not to trust you. She didn’t trust you on this issue. Aimee Cunningham also doesn’t trust you on this issue. You’ve read her piece in TribTalk. How do you respond to that?"
WHITE: "Do you know, do you know who trusts me on this issue?"
JEFFERS: "Tell me."
WHITE: "Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood, recently came out and said there is room in her movement for people with this perspective. And do you know who they are? They are people like Joe Biden and Tim Kaine. So this issue is, in my opinion, not really an issue. Again, my personal opinions are not what’s important in this election and I have made that clear this entire time. So I would listen to Cecile, and I think that her leadership in this process is worth listening to."
Before White announced his candidacy, Davis in a November 2017 Facebook post called White an "anti-choice man asking for our support as the Democratic choice for governor." Cunningham, a community activist and Democratic donor, said in the Feb. 28, 2018, TribTalk commentary mentioned by Jeffers that White earlier told her he’d support "anti-choice" legislation--a position he disputed taking.
White has said he personally believes life begins at conception yet he recognizes that abortion is legal.
"My personal beliefs are my personal beliefs. This would pertain to my wife and my children, the beliefs I would grow my children to believe in," White said after announcing his candidacy. "But as it relates to other people in America, we live in a free country and we're ruled by law and that rule of law is set by the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court has already determined that law. And I don't see them overturning themselves any time soon."
White offers backup
We asked White to tell us when Richards, who’s been touring behind her memoir of activism, made the statement touted in the debate. By email, White pointed us to Richards’ comments while talking up her book, "Making Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out and Finding the Courage to Lead," on the April 17, 2018, edition of MSNBC’s "Morning Joe."
On the program, Joe Scarborough asked Richards: "What can someone who’s pro-life learn from this book? Because, I mean, obviously there are a lot of pro-life women out there running as well and what message in here is universal?"
Richards replied: "I think the universal message is that women can’t wait until it’s their turn. I really do think that’s true. We now see women in the United States Senate, 23 women, in record numbers, but still we’re debating over basic health care issues for women. Also, I think a lot of this book too is really, Joe, about the fact that you can be pro-life and you can also understand that that isn’t something necessarily that government should be deciding for every woman in America. And that’s overwhelmingly where people are."
Richards: Yes, but
When we reached out to Richards about White’s reference to her statement, Richards said: "Abortion is a deeply personal issue. I have known and worked with many people, including politicians, who believe that abortion is not a decision they would make -- and they also respect the important right of women to make their own decisions about their pregnancy. Vice President Biden and Senator Kaine, regardless of their personal views, have been consistent in their strong support for women's health and rights. That is not the case for Mr. White."
Following up, we asked how Richards determined that White hasn’t consistently supported women’s health and rights. Lauren Peterson, Richards’ co-author, said by email that Richards relied on "accounts of people on the ground in Texas, including Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, who have raised concerns when it comes to his consistency on reproductive rights, and women's ability to trust that he would support their access to health care as governor."
We shared Richards’ responses with White, who said by email that Richards’ comment on MSNBC "could have come straight from my campaign website. Since day one, I’ve stated my personal views on this matter, while making my support for Roe v. Wade clear. I’m glad to know that Cecile accepts the position that Joe Biden, Tim Kaine and I hold."
White said that Richards said there’s room in "her movement" for people who personally believe abortion is wrong.
White accurately echoed what Richards told MSNBC -- that a person can be pro-life and also understand that government shouldn’t make abortion decisions for all women.
But White left out that Richards doesn’t think White has consistently showed strong support for women’s health and rights. That's vital clarification.
We rate this debate statement Mostly True.
MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Video of Democratic gubernatorial debate, KXAN News, May 11, 2018 (statement by Andrew White about Cecile Richards at about the 15:30 mark)
Emails on behalf of Cecile Richards from Lauren Peterson, co-author, "Making Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out and Finding the Courage to Lead," May 14-15, 2018
Web post, "Planned Parenthood Texas Votes Announces 2018 State Endorsements," Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, Feb. 2, 2018
Wendy Davis Facebook post on Andrew White, Nov. 2, 2017 (accessed May 14, 2018)
Commentary, "A pro-choice vote against Andrew White," Aimee Cunningham, TribTalk, Feb. 28, 2018
Ken Herman commentary, "Andrew White launches bid to return to Governor’s Mansion," Austin American-Statesman, Dec. 7, 2017
Emails, Andrew White, May 14-15, 2018
Video, "Cecile Richards considers life after Planned Parenthood," "Morning Joe," MSNBC, April 17, 2018
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