GRAPEVINE, Texas — Governor Rick Perry hit back on Thursday at the star of a Democratic filibuster that killed tough abortion restrictions, saying state Senator Wendy Davis’s rise from a tough upbringing should have taught her the value of each human life.
Davis, a former teenage mom who graduated from Harvard Law School, responded that Perry’s comments were ‘‘without dignity and tarnishes the high office he holds.’’
Before the battle over abortion in the second-largest state turned personal, the Democrat from Fort Worth staged a marathon filibuster Tuesday that helped defeat an omnibus bill further limiting abortion in a state where it’s already difficult to undergo them. But Perry called lawmakers back for a second special session next week to try to finish the job.
‘‘Who are we to say that children born in the worst of circumstances can’t lead successful lives?’’ Perry said in a speech to nearly 1,000 delegates at the National Right to Life Conference in suburban Dallas. ‘‘Even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances.’’
Davis, now 50, started working at age 14 to help support her single mother and three siblings.
By 19, she was married and divorced with a child of her own, but she eventually graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and won her Senate seat in an upset.
Perry pointed out that personal history in his speech, adding ‘‘it’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.’’
In comments to reporters later, he went even further.
‘‘I’m proud that she’s been able to take advantage of her intellect and her hard work, but she didn’t come from particularly good circumstances,’’ Perry said. ‘‘What if her mom had said, ‘I just can’t do this. I don’t want to do this.’ At that particular point in time I think it becomes very personal.’’
Davis quickly blasted Perry’s comments. ‘‘They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view,’’ she said in an e-mail. ‘‘Our governor should reflect our Texas values. Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test.’’
Davis’s supporters argued Perry never would have made such suggestions to a male politician.
The Legislature adjourned May 27, but Perry called lawmakers into a special session to pass stricter limits on abortion. But with the session set to end at midnight Tuesday, Davis was on her feet for more than 12 hours as Democrats attempted a filibuster.