The Houston Chronicle reports that State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, acknowledged in her upcoming memoir that she has terminated two pregnancies. Both of which occurred in the 1990s for medical reasons, when Davis was married to Jeff Davis. They occurred after the birth of two previous daughters.
The first occurred as a result of an “ectopic pregnancy,” wherein the embryo lodges in a fallopian tube instead of the uterus. In most all of these sad occurrences, the baby dies before term and the mother often dies during the pregnancy as well. The termination occurred in the first trimester. The second such occurrence happened in 1997, when Davis was 34. The second-trimester procedure occurred after testing showed the baby would be born with severe defects and abnormalities; it would have almost certainly been in a permanent vegetative state for the duration of her short, suffering-filled life. Davis would have likely faced significant health concerns as well. Excerpts from Davis’ memoir published in the newspaper note in heartbreaking detail how she delivered her daughter, already named Tate Elise, after the procedure via c-section. It also recounted how the baby was wrapped in pink, and brought to Davis and her husband so that they could have her baptized.
Longtime readers of this publication will obviously know my position on abortion rights issues. It is a woman’s personal decision, and as such should not be subjected to the whims and caprices of public examination. If this revelation would have been first published by anyone other than Davis herself, I would have pointedly refused to acknowledge it. But she was the first to release this information (in the middle of a gubernatorial election), which tells me that she is amenable to the press corps far and wide remarking on this topic.
First, it should be noted that while Davis’ courage in coming forth publicly with this part of her life is certainly unique, her experience itself is not. Studies have shown that about 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime.
Granted, Davis’ personal experiences are not like many abortions. The two babies that she lost were not, in any way whatsoever, “unwanted” or “unintended.” But at the root of all of these difficult, personal decisions is that a woman should make her own decision, free from shame, guilt or ridicule. While her political positions, most notably those espoused during his famous filibuster, support legalized abortion on-demand, her procedures were a result of actions significantly more popular among the public, specifically in Texas.
While polls have generally found Texans split about half-and-half on the whole “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” thing, a recent UT/Tribune poll (which, granted, have a bad track record) show a whopping 79% of Texans support abortion in times of danger to the mother. As Mark Jones, the resident political pundit at Rice, opined in the Chronicle article, the only people that would actually be opposed to the choices that Davis personally made are so conservative that they would have never voted for her in the first place.
However, there have been some who have, in appallingly ugly fashion, derided Davis for her choices. In horribly bad taste, my colleague at Rhymes with Right gleefully used the phrase “Abortion Barbie” in the title of his post. Others have attacked her for ostensibly using the revelation as a campaign issue. I’m sorry, but I truly have no patience for such misogyny. There is something to be said for it not being appropriate to write and release a memoir in the midst of a gubernatorial election, but those critiques should have been aired many months ago. The criticisms I am hearing today revolve around how Davis should not have revealed a HUGE personal decision in her life in a book about her life, that somehow it was inappropriate for a woman to discuss personal, private details from her past in a way men always do.
Brains & Eggs has more.