It’s So Personal: Wendy Davis

A reader writes:

No doubt I’m not the first of your readers to bring your attention to this story, but just in case: Democratic candidate for Texas governor Wendy Davis has revealed that she had two abortions for medical reasons. I thought you all might be interested because of your previous coverage of late-term abortion.

Aman Batheja and Jay Root have details:

[Davis’s new book] reveals that Davis terminated a pregnancy in 1997 during the second trimester due to the fetus having an acute brain abnormality after Davis received multiple medical opinions suggesting that the baby would not survive. Davis describes in heart-wrenching detail how the experience crushed her. “I couldn’t breathe. I literally couldn’t catch my breath,” Davis wrote of her reaction when she first learned the diagnosis. “I don’t remember much else about that day other than calling [husband] Jeff, trying to contain my hysterical crying. The rest of it is a shocked, haze-filled blur.”

The doctor said that the baby wouldn’t survive to full term, and if she did, she would suffer and probably not survive delivery. “We had been told that even if she did survive, she would probably be deaf, blind, and in a permanent vegetative state,” Davis wrote.

Jessica Valenti praises Davis’s candor but defends women who stay quiet about abortions:

[W]omen’s abortions are none of your business – not even those of a public figure, not even one who became an international figure because of abortion rights. We shouldn’t have to explain ourselves or justify our life decisions: our abortions are ours alone.

Research shows that talking with people about issues like abortion helps to lessen stigma around terminating a pregnancy. But why must women splay their most intimate moments out into the world in order for people to understand how basic and necessary abortion rights really are?

And Sarah Kliff reminds us that Davis, while her situation was more extreme than most, is far from unusual for having terminated pregnancies:

Talking about abortion is rare — but the actual experience isn’t. More than one in every five pregnancies —  21 percent, excluding miscarriages —  are terminated, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit research organization that supports abortion rights. Each year, 1.7 percent of American women between 15 and 44 have an abortion.

Researchers at the Guttmacher Institute published separate research in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, estimating that if the abortion rate from 2008 held, 30 percent of American women would have obtained an abortion by time they turned 45. One in 12 women, at the 2008 rate, would have had an abortion by age 20, and a quarter of all women under 30 would have terminated a pregnancy.

Update from a reader:

Wendy Davis is disingenuous, or is it disingenuous liberal media? The two abortions Davis revealed that she had would NOT have been prohibited by the Texas abortion bill she filibustered. An ectopic pregnancy can be considered life threatening or at least a severe medical complication and, in any event, typically is discovered well before the 20 week limit of the bill.  Her second aborted pregnancy, “during the second trimester” anywhere from week 14 to week 26, (a) may not have been prohibited as prior to 20 weeks; and (b) as a severe and irremediable fetal defect would not have been prohibited by the bill.

Not to mention that, as a gubernatorial candidate, she went back on her opposition, claiming now to be for a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, subject to, provided that, blah, blah, blah … causing the left to explode.


Your update from a reader has a spurious line of reasoning. HB2 doesn’t just ban abortions after 20 weeks – that may be its least controversial aspect! It temporarily (and possibly permanently) closed more than half of the abortion clinics in the state because of restrictions meant to do just that. In its most restrictive interpretation it will leave 13 million Texas women with 7 clinics to serve their needs, down from 42 before it passed.

Sometimes I wonder if casual anti-choicers understand that you cannot get any kind of abortion in a regular OB/GYN practice, even if your abortion is perfectly legal and intended to save your life. Her opposition to the bill is because it restricts access to a basic medical procedure for all women who need it, no matter their reason. If Wendy Davis in 1997 was not able to physically get to a clinic for treatment, she would have had to continue with that pregnancy for who knows how long – one she knew to be doomed. Living every day in torture. This is what your reader wants? Her story and her opposition to the law strike at the heart of the It’s So Personal series.