AUSTIN, Texas — Republican attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott on Saturday criticized Democratic challenger Wendy Davis' 2013 filibuster to block new abortion restrictions and touted his record of defending state abortion laws.
Abbott spoke to about 2,000 anti-abortion demonstrators at the state Capitol during the Texas Rally for Life rally. The event was on the same steps where abortion rights supporters rallied last year and helped propel Davis, a second-term state senator from Fort Worth, as a rising star for state Democrats.
Abbott never used Davis' name, but referred to her as a "little known" state senator running for governor who seized on the publicity generated by her nearly 13-hour filibuster last June.
Her filibuster temporarily delayed a bill that banned abortion after 20 weeks and placed new restrictions on abortion providers. The Legislature's Republican majority passed the bill a few weeks later, and it was quickly signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
Organizers said they held Saturday's rally to focus on the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.
But it was Abbott, and the campaign for governor, that grabbed the attention. Abbott was the only candidate for statewide office to address the rally.
"The most important issue in Texas is not taking lives, it is saving lives," Abbott told the cheering crowd that booed any reference of Davis, the filibuster or her campaign.
"The person who led the fight for late-term abortion is now running to govern this great state. She's partnering with Planned Parenthood to return Texas to late-term abortion on demand," Abbott said.
Davis spokeswoman Rebecca Acuna defended the filibuster as a stand for women's rights.
"Senator Davis fought to stop a law that was an abuse of power by politicians like Greg Abbott," Acuna said. "Senator Davis trusts women to make their own decisions and will continue to make sure that women and mothers are safe and have adequate access to health care."
Along with the 20-week ban, the bill that Davis fought required that abortions be performed at ambulatory surgical centers. It also mandated that doctors who perform abortions obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, and that nonsurgical abortions needed to take place in a surgical center.
The law led to the closing of several abortion clinics that couldn't meet the new standards. Planned Parenthood has sued to try to overturn the law as an unconstitutional restriction of women's rights. The case is pending in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Abbott touted his record of defending the law and several other abortion-restriction measures while serving as state attorney general over the last decade.
Since 1999, Texas has implemented parental consent laws for minors seeking abortions, required a 24-hour waiting period and required women to have a sonogram before the procedure and Abbott's office has fought several attempts to overturn them.