Gov. Rick Perry’s Change of Heart
December 27, 2011
Gov. Rick Perry says I changed his heart on the rape exception.
Watch the video from the townhall church meeting here: http://http://video.nytimes.com/video/2011/12/27/multimedia/100000001249688/rick-perry-on-abortion.html
Listen to the audio from the Personhood USA tele-townhall here: http://www.radioiowa.com/2011/12/27/perry-god-was-working-on-my-heart-audio/
He told Pastor Joshua Verwers of Full Faith Christian Center in Chariton, Iowa, “You’re seeing a transformation. . .” and that it came about after he’d had a lengthy conversation with me at the premiere of the Citizens United film, “The Gift of Life.” Perry called our conversation “powerful.” He said he signed the Personhood Pledge the very next morning. At the tele-town hall sponsored by Personhood USA, Gov. Perry told the listeners that I’d shared my story of having been conceived in rape and that my life has worth. “This is something that is relatively new and it goes back to a meeting with Rebecca Kiessling, who was at the The Gift of Life. We had a fairly lengthy and heartfelt conversation about how she was conceived in rape. Looking in her eyes, I couldn’t come up with an answer to defend exceptions for rape and incest. Over the course of the last few weeks, the Christmas holiday, reflecting on that – I would suggest that my prolife position has been rather strong as the Governor of Texas. But she made a statement to me that was really strong and pierced my heart. As I signed that document, I will suggest to you that all I can tell you is God was working on my heart.”
You know how, sometimes, when two people relate the story of a conversation, they don’t always match up? Well, I think you’ll find that our recollections of the conversation definitely match up!
Last week, I’d sent a private e-mail to the leaders at Personhood USA, detailing my extraordinary conversation with Gov. Rick Perry. I waited to disclose these details publicly until he was prepared to make this announcement himself. Two days ago, I inadvertently discovered that I was in a Rick Perry video on his website, in a sort of cameo with Gov. Mike Huckabee as well, from the premiere of “The Gift of Life” film. This gave me an inclination that perhaps he’s ready to make just such an announcement. After all, why else would he choose to have me included in his video? Here is the content of the e-mail I sent to Personhood USA leadership:
I want to let you all know how things went in Des Moines. I had a back-stage pass, so I got to speak with the four candidates individually, giving each of them my two DVDs — my story, “Conceived in Rape: from Worthless to Priceless,” and the group film, “Except in Cases of Rape? 12 Stories of Survival,” along with my business card, “Conceived in Rape: Targeted for Abortion.” I told them each that I’m in the film being premiered, “The Gift of Life with Gov. Mike Huckabee,” and that I’m a national spokeswoman for Personhood USA. Both Santorum and Bachmann each said right away, “I signed the Personhood Pledge.” I thanked them, and thanked those two for being 100% pro-life. We had great conversations. With Gingrich, he told me he was about to go on stage, but that he really wanted to speak with me later. We did speak more later that evening, but he did not say anything like that he’d changed his mind on the exceptions. Each of the four candidates did say in their speeches that evening that they support either Personhood Amendments, or the Human Life Amendment. Gingrich said he supported a personhood bill by Congress, believing it would by-pass the Supreme Court. I’ve heard him put forth that argument before.
The best part of the evening, however, was my conversation with Gov. Perry. He was stunned as I handed him my DVDs, asking me more about my story. Then he said he wanted my autograph, which I tried to brush off, but he ripped open the cellophane, pulled out the DVD and a marker, asking me to sign it to his daughter, which I did: “100% Pro-Life, Rebecca Kiessling.” He asked more about my story, then he told me that I was his heroine. I thanked him and said, “Funny you say that, because my question for you is — would you be my hero? I’m alive because of pro-life leaders who were my heroes. They made sure abortion was illegal, even in cases of rape. They are my heroes and I owe my life to them. Would you be my hero too?” He said, “Yes, I would!” And I replied, “But you make the rape exception.” He responded, “Wow, this is so powerful.”
We went on to have our photo taken by his professional photographer (who still has not e-mailed me the photos.) Then we began to talk again and I said to him, “When you make that rape exception, it’s like you’re saying to me that I deserved the death penalty for the crimes of my father. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, my father didn’t even deserve the death penalty. The Supreme Court has said there is no death penalty for rapists. But you say that I, as the innocent child of rape, deserved the death penalty?” And Perry said, “No, no, I don’t believe that.” He hesitated, then went on, “Wow, you know, tonight’s event, and this film, is all about changing hearts and minds. Right now, you’re changing MY heart.” I looked him in the eye and asked, “No more exceptions?” He looked intently back at me and said, “No more exceptions.” He went on to say that he’d never really put a face to the issue and never considered it from the perspective of someone like me, then he said again that I’d changed his heart on this issue.
When he gave his speech later, he came to a point where he looked at me and said “Some children are not born into ideal circumstances, but never, ever let it be said that there is such a thing as an unwanted child. EVERY life is precious. EVERY life is a gift from God and is worthy of protection.” And that’s how he ended his speech. So I guess that was his way of announcing that he’s now 100% pro-life, but I’d really like to have him confirm that at the Personhood tele-town hall, if possible.
Wednesday evening’s premiere was absolutely one of the highlights of my life. I regularly have people tell me that I’d changed their minds on the rape exception — just not presidential candidates or governors! When I first heard that Perry was running, back in June, and I heard that he’d made the rape exception, I’d hoped and prayed for the opportunity to be able to share my story with him, but really thought that was a joke! Friends kept telling me I was going to have an “Esther” moment in Des Moines, and I surely did!
This is just such a surreal moment in time for me, which is the same thing I kept saying at “The Gift of Life” premiere. I feel like years of sharing my story has been culminating in this moment. When I first learned at 18 how I was conceived, it was 1988 and Ronald Reagan was still President. I immediately became very interested in his position on abortion and was utterly disappointed to hear that he made the rape exception. I remember calling my local Right to Life affiliate because I just wanted to meet someone who agreed that I had a right not to have been killed, and who would be willing to take a stand to defend my life and the lives of those who are similarly-situated. “If only I could have the chance to speak with the President,” I thought, “then maybe I could change his mind.” Then, I figured, many Americans would follow his leadership and stop making the rape exception as well, and it could lead to an end to legalized abortion in the U.S..
Of course, coming to know Christ was pivotal in my life — to understand that I’m not the Savior of the World, and that this is all not on my shoulders, thank God! But I just always knew that my life was spared for a purpose and that this was God’s mission for my life.
With some of the failures this past year, you can begin to wonder if you can really make the huge difference you believe that God has planned. And then this all happens — The Gift of Life film, the four pro-life candidates all agreeing to speak at the film’s premiere, my conversation with Gov. Rick Perry, the four pro-life candidates all signing the Personhood Pledge and agreeing to participate in the Personhood tele-town hall, and then Rick Perry’s “announcement” that he no longer makes the rape exception.
It all just fits so well together — like a puzzle which was designed precisely that way. Part of the foundation was laid nearly six years ago when I was first involved in the Personhood Amendment petition drive here in Michigan. I knew without a doubt that Personhood was the right solution, and was so excited to be a part of something aiming to end abortion in the U.S.
And then I became involved with Personhood USA, writing endorsement statements in support of state Personhood Amendments, then testifying before state legislatures in support of Personhood Amendments. This past fall, I was named a National Spokeswoman for Personhood USA. I met Gov. Mike Huckabee four years ago when he was running for President, and I thanked him for being 100% pro-life. He’s come out as a strong advocate for Personhood, and is the host of the film with my story in it, “The Gift of Life.” It’s just all too perfect, and it’s culminated in this amazing moment — for me to be so blessed as to have Gov. Perry announce that my story changed his heart, for Personhood USA to have four major pro-life presidential candidates signing the Pledge and participating in this tele-town hall, for the future of the pro-life movement to be challenged to stop accepting the rape exception and to embrace Personhood, for Rick Perry to have his change of heart as the Governor of Texas and as a presidential candidate, and for others who hear his heart-felt conversion on the rape exception to allow God to change their hearts as well. I’m just in awe of how it all came together and I’m so blessed to have been a part of it! It was certainly God-ordained. There’s no way any of us could have planned this all out if we’d wanted to. It’s just awesome to see how He works!
But I know that this is only the beginning. I can’t wait to see what all God is going to do! I pray ultimately for an end to abortion, and that all lives will be valued and protected.
Never forget that real lives are at stake, and I hope you’ll all have the same sense of urgency and sense of gratitude for life.