Standing with Wendy Davis: A Story That Deserves Respect, Not Doubt

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Welcome to hypocrite junction, which is the nickname I’ve given to the corner of the internet that’s still discussing Texas Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis speaking out about her abortion. For those of you who missed this whole story, here’s the skinny: Texas State Senator Wendy Davis made headlines last year when she filibustered against a restrictive abortion bill for 11 hours. Now, she’s running for governor of Texas, the first woman to run for that office since 1994. Currently she’s trailing the Republican candidate, Greg Abbott, but she’s still making headlines left and right. She’s tough and she’s smart, and regardless of how the polls turn out in November, she deserves a hell of a lot of respect.

In the midst of the current campaign, Davis’ book came out. That’s by no means an uncommon practice — it’s a pretty normal undertaking by candidates on the campaign trail. Davis’ book contained a story about how she has had two abortions — both for medical reasons.

Most people responded to her admission well, either recognizing the struggle that she must have gone through, or applauding the courage she had to tell her story.

And then there are the people who accused her of making it up for political purposes. I think we may need a new phrase beyond “double standards” at this point. First, she was attacked for standing up for the women who Texas’ insanely restrictive abortion law would have punished. When she first entered the national spotlight, she was called “abortion barbie.” Some of her critics went so far as to create “abortion barbie” posters of her. Click here to see them, but fair warning — they’re about as tasteful and subtle as you’d expect. Then, when her back story came to light, which includes a stint in a trailer and as a low-income single mother, people criticized her parenting skills. Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah Palin, was one of the loudest critics. Now that Davis has come out with the story of her abortions, she’s being accused of making them up. Do you have a headache yet? Because I definitely do.

Oh, that might be why.

Politicians have lied before, sure. I highly doubt that Wendy Davis is lying in this case, but I’m not privy to either her life story or her medical history, so I can’t say that with 100 percent certainty. But come on people, do you really think that she’s stupid enough to make up that lie in the first place? And more importantly, how shitty of a person do you have to be to accuse a woman of lying about what very well might have been two of the most difficult, traumatizing, and upsetting decisions of her life.

That’s exactly where the problem is — those who are criticizing her don’t realize how normal Davis’ story truly is. Her critics are attempting to use facts here, so in order to save my sanity I’m going to take a second to debunk one of the most egregious among them. One of the claims is that Davis probably didn’t have an abortion for medical reasons, because those are relatively rare. Texas Right to Life’s Emily Horne claimed, “it is extremely rare — if not non-existent — for a woman to have an abortion because the pregnancy posed a risk to her life. As for fetal anomalies, it simply isn’t necessary to abort a child because he or she is sick or has a medical condition.”

Well one of the two abortions Davis has discussed involved an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a fertilized egg stays in the fallopian tube. It’s estimated to happen in one of 50 pregnancies, the baby most likely won’t survive, and given that the condition is life threatening to the mother, often emergency care is needed. In some cases the pregnancy may need to be terminated. As the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine’s site puts it:

Ectopic pregnancy is life-threatening. The pregnancy cannot continue to birth (term). The developing cells must be removed to save the mother’s life.

Women have abortions to end ectopic pregnancies, and they also have abortions because of the quality of life that their unborn child may be subjected to, as was the case of Davis’ other pregnancy. The baby was going to suffer severe medical issues, and Davis chose to terminate the pregnancy rather than have her child suffer. The truth is that one in three American women will have an abortion at some point in her life. The exact statistics for why are often debated, but according to a comprehensive study released by the Guttmacher Institute in 2005, four percent of women seeking abortions do so out of concern for their own health, and another three percent choose to terminate a pregnancy out of concerns about the fetus’ health.

This was not an attempt to justify Davis’ choices — they don’t need to be justified by me because they were hers and hers alone. Rather this is my attempt to point out the argumentative flaws of those who are attempting to cast doubt on Davis’ story right now because not only are their arguments disrespectful, they’re also pretty weak.

Quite frankly it doesn’t matter why Davis had an abortion, or why any other woman makes that choice. What does matter is that they have the resources to make that choice, or any other, for themselves — exactly what Davis stood for eleven hours to protect. I applaud her for sharing her story, and her work to make others who have had equally difficult choices understand where she is coming from.


Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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