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Perry to co-chair gala for influential anti-abortion rights group

Following his formal entrance into the 2012 presidential race on Saturday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has signed on to co-chair an anniversary gala for the influential anti-abortion rights policy group Americans United for Life, which was founded in 1971.

The Nov. 2 gala, to be held at the Newseum in Washington D.C., is intended to celebrate AUL’s 40th anniversary in the presence of about 80 federal lawmakers.

Co-chairing the event with Perry are U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.); the keynote speaker has yet to be confirmed.

AUL has listed as “honorary hosts” 16 U.S. senators — all Republicans — including Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), John McCain (Ariz.), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.). Among the 63 U.S. House representatives listed as “honorary hosts” are 2012 GOP presidential contenders Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.). Other attending GOP representatives influential in the anti-abortion rights movement include Reps. Trent Franks (Ariz.), Mike Pence (Ind.), Joe Pitts (Pa.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Cliff Stearns (Fla.) and Allen West (Fla.).

Also on the list of hosts are Reps. Renee Ellmers (N.C.), Bill Huizenga (Mich.), Randy Hultgren (Ill.), Chris Smith (N.J.), who participated in last month’s press conference about the report AUL drafted to encourage Congress to investigate — and then defund — Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

AUL’s gala is a pricey affair: The organization is asking supporters to become sponsors — for $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 in order to offset the costs of the event.

In a recent profile on Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, the Christian Science Monitor describes how Yoest — who is not a physician, attorney or lawmaker, though she has a doctorate of philosophy in government — has become “Public Enemy No. 1″ for abortion-rights advocates. In November, the group will celebrate its influence on select laws, such as defending the Hyde Amendment before the U.S. Supreme Court and establishing the “intellectual groundwork” for the fetal homicide legislation that has passed in 38 states.

Despite four decades of lobbying and drafting model legislation to enact abortion restrictions throughout the country, much of the national recognition AUL has earned has come in 2011. Yoest’s group has taken credit for 22 of 86 anti-abortion laws enacted this year, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

In February, Mother Jones blamed AUL for controversial laws cropping up in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota that, if interpreted in a certain way, would have allegedly legalized the killing of abortion providers. AUL denied the accusation, claiming that however lawmakers might have adapted AUL’s model “Pregnant Woman Protection Act” (PDF) was out of the organization’s control.

Ten days after the AUL gala, Yoest will set sail as a guest speaker on a National Review-sponsored cruise.

As of yet, Perry has not signed the Susan B. Anthony List’s highly-publicized anti-abortion pledge, but in other ways, Perry has already presented himself as an ardent abortion opponent and dedicated evangelical Christian. Perry’s relationship with AUL has been positive since he became governor of Texas in 2000. When AUL released its annual “Defending Life” publication of model legislation, Perry’s testimony was used to promote the publication:

This state-by-state scorecard of progress in the effort to defend life lets elected officials, grassroots activists and citizens know exactly where we are on our shared priority. I am proud that the report reflects the sweeping reforms we have enacted in Texas, saving thousands of lives in the process. This is not a book you leave on the shelf to collect dust. This information is ammunition in a fight that is far from over. I know you will find this guide informative and useful as you continue to promote and protect life in your state.

In AUL’s latest “State of the States” report card, Texas ranked fifth — making it one of the most restrictive states regarding abortion rights.

In May, Perry signed a controversial Texas bill into law requiring women seeking abortions to wait 24 hours after seeing a sonogram of their fetus. The law is facing litigation. He also signed into law a bill making “Choose Life” license plates available to Texas drivers, directing the revenue from those plates to state crisis pregnancy centers.

According to a recent analysis by NARAL Pro-Choice America about Perry’s abortion-related legislative record, “many of the laws he signed inject political interference into women’s private decision-making.”

Among the highlights of Perry’s record, NARAL noted that the governor signed a proclamation declaring April 2009 “Abortion Recovery Awareness Month” in Texas.

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