Rick Perry Claims Texas’ New Abortion Restrictions Could Have Saved Joan Rivers’ Life

CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) is attempting to draw a connection between late comedian Joan Rivers’ death and the harsh new abortion restrictions that he recently approved in Texas, suggesting that Rivers may not have died under that law.

Rivers’ recent death may have resulted from complications following a surgical procedure on her vocal cords. She went into cardiac arrest after what was supposed to be a simple procedure. The New York State Health Department is currently investigating to determine whether the endoscopy clinic that treated her is at fault.

At an event on Sunday, the Texas governor insinuated that the comedian’s death could have been averted if New York had stricter regulations on clinics. Last fall, Perry signed an omnibus anti-abortion law that includes a provision requiring abortion clinics to bring their building codes in line with ambulatory surgical centers.

“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. “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.”

But Texas’ clinic regulations aren’t exactly saving lives. Although the state’s new law is framed in terms of protecting patients’ health, abortion is already incredibly safe; in fact, it’s much safer than other common procedures, like colonoscopies and knee replacement surgery. The additional regulations simply force clinics to make unnecessary and costly renovations, like widening their hallways and installing new air filtration systems, that most of them can’t afford. Over-regulating clinics in this way actually poses a threat to women’s reproductive health because it forces clinics to close, leaving impoverished women with few options for safely and legally terminating a pregnancy.

A judge recently blocked that portion of Texas’ law for exactly that reason. Last month, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel determined that forcing clinics to spend millions of dollars on building upgrades has more to do with restricting abortion than it does with protecting women’s health. Texas quickly appealed that decision and the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is now poised to overturn it.

The comparison to Joan Rivers falls flat in another way. The clinic where Rivers had her throat procedure, Yorkville Endoscopy Center, is already licensed as an ambulatory surgical center. According to Bloomberg News, these type of clinics are becoming increasingly popular for minor procedures as patients seek more convenient and less expensive options outside of hospitals.

Perry’s comments are sparking outrage from reproductive rights groups, who say that it’s inappropriate to draw comparisons between abortion restrictions and unrelated medical risks. “The reality is that complications happen in all areas of medicine. There’s risk inherent in just about anything,” Heather Busby, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in a statement. “You could have a heart attack and die while having your wisdom teeth removed. Should we outlaw wisdom teeth removal?”