A Republican congressman is claiming innocence this week after a video emerged showing him saying women who got abortions should be punished because they had murdered an unborn child.
“As far as I’m concerned they committed murder,” Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX) said in the video, released by the group Reproaction on May 30, before his chief of staff could cut off the interview. “Of course they should [be punished]… absolutely.”
In a follow-up statement provided to The Texan Thursday afternoon, however, Wright tried to backtrack.
“My heart goes out to women who have had abortions. My heart breaks for those who suffer from the latent effects they experience. I pray for them. Nothing can mask the fact that abortion is the taking of an innocent life. But my remarks were directed to those who perform abortions,” he said.
He added, “Those who perform the abortions should be held responsible. I will not cower from pro-abortion radicals who push an agenda of death.”
Even in his follow-up statement, Wright’s comments are a stone’s throw away from those of hardline anti-abortion extremists such as Paul Jennings Hill, a minister executed in Florida in 2003 for the 1994 murder of abortion provider John Britton and Britton’s bodyguard. Prior to the attack, Hill was featured in the documentary Lake of Fire, where he can be seen protesting against abortion.
“Abortionists are murderers, therefore abortionists should be executed,” Hill says in the documentary.
Wright himself has made other incendiary remarks in relation to abortion. In 2015, he compared Planned Parenthood to Hitler, saying “Hitler made the trains run on time … the good that’s being done doesn’t compensate for the evil that’s being done by Planned Parenthood.” This week, Wright also tweeted support for the Trump administration’s decision to end federally funded fetal tissue research contracts.
Wright’s comments come amid a wider Republican-led effort to halt abortion rights. In late May, the state of Missouri signed an abortion ban at eight weeks, with zero exceptions, before declining to renew the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic’s license — although a federal judge intervened at last Friday to ensure the clinic remained open for the time being.
Missouri’s anti-abortion legislation followed a similar measure in Alabama, which signed into law the country’s most restrictive abortion ban earlier in the month. Under that law, all abortions that do not either seriously endanger the health of the mother, or have an unborn child with a “lethal anomaly” are banned. Doctors who fail to “exercise reasonable care to preserve the life of a child born alive after an abortion or attempted abortion” could face 20 years in prison.
The abortion ban is not in effect yet, as it has been challenged by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.
Other states, spurred on by anti-abortion Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, have introduced similar bills. In addition to Missouri and Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Ohio have all passed similar regressive anti-abortion laws.
Wright’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.