Wendy Davis, a Hypocrite for ‘Supporting’ a 20-Week Ban? Not at All

This week on my Facebook feed, a D.C.-dwelling college acquaintance of mine—we attended New York University together—posted a story about Texas’ Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. In his erudite commentary accompanying the piece, he called her “fucking awful.”

This guy is not a Republican; in fact, he described himself as a fellow “soldier” in the political fight against odious abortion restrictions. I may be an NYU alum (go Bobcats!), but I’m a native Texan, and I’ve chosen to make my home state my forever-home-state.

What made Davis so “fucking awful”? She told Texas news media that she would support a 20-week abortion ban with extensive exceptions for health issues and fetal anomaly, and which gave great deference to the decision-making power of pregnant people and their doctors.

The national media has spun Davis’ statement as a betrayal, a grand leap of hypocrisy. We saw headlines like “Wendy Davis Is Pretty Much Fine With The Abortion Ban She Filibustered” (Gawker), “Wendy Davis, Hero to the Pro-Choice Movement, Comes Out In Support Of A 20-Week Abortion Ban” (Slate), and “Wendy Davis Backs Limited Late-Term Abortion Ban, Despite Historic Filibuster” (Fox News).

But the truth is that the position Davis took when she sat down with the Dallas Morning News this week is very much the same position she took when she stood up for 13 hours in the Texas senate chamber last summer. Davis never opposed the 20-week ban entirely; she wanted it to have more exceptions—notably, a mental health exception. She’s noted how rare later abortions are—less than half of 1 percent of legal abortions are performed after 20 weeks—and she has spent most of her time on the topic focusing on those people who seek them for medical reasons.

I don’t agree with Davis’ position on this today, and I didn’t agree with her last summer at the state capitol. I think 20-week abortion bans are disgusting intrusions into bodily autonomy, and I think they hurt people who are the most vulnerable and the most marginalized. I stand both with pregnant people and families who seek them for medical reasons and with the people who seek them because, so often, they are unable to afford or access earlier abortions.

But I also recognize the seriousness of the situation on the ground here in Texas. I see that the effect of allowing conservative lawmakers to steamroll over Texans with nigh-unchecked legislation that not only makes bodily autonomy a thing of the past, but which has unraveled our school systems and put them in the hands of private operators, which has dirtied our lakes and rivers, and which has made North Texas an earthquake-ridden playland for big energy companies hell-bent on fracking the state into kingdom come.

With all this in mind, I have watched as those who would call themselves liberal allies deride and mock Davis from their homes in blue states. On Twitter, reacting to Gawker’s Davis piece, a Brooklyn-dwelling writer wrote that she “cannot, anymore, with Democrats.”

Forgive me, but I cannot, anymore, with people who can afford to value political purity over the reality of what it’s going to take to get Texans fed, get Texans to affordable doctors, get Texans into quality public schools. I cannot, anymore, with the fact that more than one-quarter of my fellow Texans live without health insurance.

I am not a particular fan of the saying “never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” I think that attitude often allows for inaction and for dangerous compromise that forces people who are most in need to put their priorities aside in order to satisfy the status quo. But I’m also a realist, and the policies that Wendy Davis supports are incredibly important first steps in moving Texas forward. They are not perfect, but they are good. They’re very good.

Texans don’t need a governor who can pass a perfect pro-choice litmus test; they need one who isn’t chomping at the bit to repeal Roe v. Wade, who won’t privatize public schools, who won’t champion cuts to food stamps because they believe poor people aren’t entitled to eat. Those things are “fucking awful.” A Davis governorship would be an incredible sea change in Texas, and it could open the doors to a new future wherein we’re no longer the state with the highest percentage of uninsured residents, wherein our leaders don’t look at the Mexican border and see a battle zone being overtaken by an “illegal invasion” or a “third-world country.”

Texas is never getting a governor who believes in free abortion on demand if it doesn’t first get a governor who believes in health exceptions to a 20-week abortion ban—a ban that was just one part of a bill that, never forget, was part of a package of omnibus anti-abortion access legislation that is set to shutter all but six abortion providers in this state come September.

Playing “gotcha” with Wendy Davis over a position on abortion that is not only mainstream for Texas Democrats, but for Democrats nationwide, also ignores the wider mission of what it means to be a reproductive justice advocate. This is where the language of “choice” fails us; the technical legality of abortion after 20 weeks means little to those who cannot pay for the procedure in the first place.

When I look at the totality of what Wendy Davis stands for—well-funded public schools and smart environmental regulation, just to get us started—I see the first steps toward a Texas that doesn’t see thousands of people living in colonias without access to running water or electricity. I see the first steps toward a Texas where people don’t visit emergency rooms for sore throats, and where energy companies can’t run pipelines through farm and ranchland whenever and wherever they feel like it. I see a Texas with a federal Medicaid expansion, a Texas where the maternal mortality rate doesn’t increase by 400 percent in fifteen years, and a Texas where abortion providers aren’t forced to tell state-sanctioned lies to pregnant people about breast cancer.

I would love to not have to compromise on a 20-week abortion ban. But right now, Texans have to work with reality. And the reality is that we cannot all pack up our homes and families and relocate to more amenable political geographies; we must do our work here, not just for ourselves, but for the greater good—not the greater perfection.

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  • AZDem9933

    Very well put, Andrea. It’s also up to pro-choice activists to change public opinion on these topics so that more politicians will feel confident about embracing full reproductive freedom. The antis have been out there making the case that late term abortion bans are necessary using emotional manipulation. Pro-choicers need to make our case more forcefully. We need to do a big PR campaign about why abortion bans of any kind are arbitrary and harm real women.

    • ldwendy

      I”m curious how “emotional manipulation” is used to say late-term abortion bans are necessary. Most arguments for the bans seemed to be based on getting people to believe that 20-week old fetuses can feel pain.

  • terafied

    I think you’re missing the point. It’s not “hypocrisy,” really, but an abominable lack of knowledge about her profession: Law. Any time you pass statutory law, you hand over invitations to prosecutors to launch investigations based on flimsy “tips” (see: Lila Rose, et. al). Did we learn nothing from Phill Kline’s Kansas? Seizing patient records through discovery would not be possible if there were no law allegedly being violated. If Davis prefers to leave the decision-making in the hands of women and doctors, she needs not get behind any ban whatsoever.

    But she also needs not do the reprehensible; the sin we slam Republicans for all the time. And that is creating statutory law which chips away at Roe v. Wade.

    I can’t believe I have to explain this in here. I’m so disappointed.

  • Cactus

    So Wendy Davis became an unexpected hero last summer to people who, for the most part, knew very little about her. And now they’re tearing her down after finding out that she’s…not 100% perfect. Why does this continue to happen with progressivish politicians? It’s really tiresome. No one’s going to quite measure up, so we should stop crowning heroes without measuring them first and actually paying attention to their positions and goals. What Davis did last summer was great. And important. And difficult. But it doesn’t mean she was right on every issue. It just seems like the media loves to build people up into these superhuman forces of good so that they can then shout “NOPE!”, get everyone in a tizzy, start the teardown process, and in the meantime WAY worse folks are getting off scot-free. We’re never going to have a Progressive Superman or Wonder Woman, so when those narratives start getting thrown out it’s better to start questioning things immediately than to go “SHE’S TERRIBLE!” later on in order to distance themselves from having believed in a politician who might be–gasp!–FLAWED! They’re all human, it’s highly unlikely that every member of a politician’s base will agree with him or her on everything. That’s the most important thing to keep in mind.

  • Mockingbird

    When I was living in Los Angeles I used to harshly judge red state democratic politicians for not being liberal enough, for not standing up for all we should believe in. Then I moved back to Baton Rouge. No, I’m still not happy when Mary Landrieu backtracks on the ACA, but she is ten thousand times better than the Suicide Caucus tea party fool we have representing our district in the House and we need her in the Senate even if she is imperfect. I wish we had someone like Wendy Davis running for governor in Louisiana, I wish we had someone like her in our state legislature bringing national attention to how bad things are for women in this state. No, she’s not perfect, but she’s ten thousand times better than the alternative and at times, that’s the best you can hope for in this world, and then hope the next person is better still.

  • radicalhw

    Count me as a pro-choice liberal safe in my blue state of Minnesota…..who is happy you wrote this for my much-needed reality check.

  • http://www.friv2friv3friv4.com/ friv 2 friv 3 friv 4

    Count me as a pro-choice liberal safe in my blue state of Minnesota….

  • Joey Randolph

    Include in an abortion bill: “great deference to the decision-making power of pregnant people and their doctors;” “extensive exceptions for health issues and fetal anomalies;” and “a mental health exception,” and there is NOT a desired but NOT needed abortion that can’t be “justified” under one of these inane excuses for committing filicide with impunity.

    My favorite is “a mental health exception.” When is someone seriously thinking of killing her own baby in utero NOT suffering some kind of mental disease or defect? Every Prochoice woman who has had 1, 2, 3 or more abortions and advocates for abortion on demand for every woman worldwide has a mental defect of one sort of another. She wants to “blame” her mental health for her need to kill her own gestating baby.

    Imagine affording the same to rapists: great deference to the decision-making power of rapists and their doctors; extensive exceptions for health issues and penile anomalies, AND a mental health exception.

    “Look, yer Honor. My libido is huge and my doc says so; but I suffer from Peyronie’s Disease, aka crooked cock disorder, (or an undersized dick or a wide circumference short penis, etc.) and it’s made me distraught, depressed, and mentally diseased and hey, I just gotta have it — Spike Lee says so. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t occasionaly rape a woman. Yer honor knows the great precedent for this sort of defense by reason of mental illness or defect — the pro-abortion lobby taught it to me! We wouldn’t want to vitiate their precedent, now would we?!”

    If the internal logic is NOT consistent across a broad spectrum of applications it is NOT logical, reasonable and defensible to begin with!

    • terafied

      I respect your right to view the fetus as a person. I don’t share it. Neither do many others. And in this country, whenever there has been a sharp divide on issues, we’ve always sided with the individual.

    • terafied

      I would also like to point out that as a male who has never been pregnant, you can’t possibly know how it feels. Women who seek abortions are more likely to already have borne children.

    • Jennifer Starr

      Another long-winded ‘pronouncement’ by little boy Joey, says absolutely nothing of any use but sure uses up a lot of five-dollar words while doing it. Thomas Jefferson would laugh at you, little Joey.

    • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

      Word salad. It is a symptom of mental illness.

    • goatini

      “great deference to the decision-making power of rapists”

      ^^^EXACTLY what the radical theocratic forced-birthers have in mind – supporting rapists and their crimes against innocent female US citizens.

    • ansuz

      If someone has mental health issues, those issues can make a person vulnerable to rape and abuse, make it difficult to recognize or understand pregnancy, make pregnancy particularly dangerous for that person (e.g., by the hormonal changes making it more likely for them to commit suicide), make it more difficult for that person to seek abortion or prenatal healthcare, and/or make the person’s body an unsuitable environment for pregnancy (e.g., through necessary medications being dangerous for pregnancy).

    • Mirable

      When is someone seriously thinking of killing her own baby in utero NOT suffering some kind of mental disease or defect?

      what do you think Joey? Should the 1 in 3 women who have had abortions (that includes republicans and evangelicals) be sent to the mental hospital if they even consider abortion?

    • Ramanusia

      There is no flilicide, and there is no baby within the uterus. Only those who are suffering a mental disease or defect see a fetus and a baby as the same thing. It’s pretty much been universal that only those who are anti-choice who oppose medical procedures because they don’t know words and are eager to impose gynicide have ever been shown to have a mental defect. You want to “blame” women for daring to consider their own lives (that includes little girls who were gang raped), because you have some psychotic need to kill any woman who chooses not to sacrifice her health or her life so that she may incubate against common sense or the advice of her doctor.

      You are imagining empowering the rapists, in fact you’ve done so, by insisting the the rapist get to decide if the their victims should incubate against their will by doing what you just did in the paragraph above where you vilify and abuse women just like those rapists you’re so fond of have done. You wish to rob them of their autonomy and wish to impose YOUR will upon their bodies, just as a rapist does.

      The anti-choice lobby (which ironically is the only lobby that is promoting abortion), is very much pro-rape just like you. And we’re all about vitiating your precedent in raping and killing women just because you think they MUST be punished for not being human beings and daring to have engaged in sex even if it was against their will at the behest of your pro-rape buddies.

      You have no grasp of logic here. What you’re saying is that the state should indeed continue to rob a woman of her right to her own body because you believe that a rapist has the right to violate her, as does the zygote. YOUR rape happy logic is consistent, but it’s not logical, reasonable or defensible, but it is indicative a truly sick mind. The anti-choice/pro-rape lobby must be silenced.

    • goatini

      Comparing safe, legal minor outpatient medical procedures, to which ALL US citizens are guaranteed privacy in the choice and use of, – with violent felony sexual assault – IS RAPE APOLOGIA. Patients who legally avail themselves, as is their civil, human, and Constitutional right, to safe, LEGAL minor outpatient medical procedures, are NOT, and will never be, criminals.

    • expect_resistance

      Your rambling post was difficult to decipher but I’ll try to address what you said.

      Yes, the decision to continue or not continue a pregnancy rests with women. The decision to have an abortion or not rests with a woman and her doctor. No one else has a right to insert their influence or opinion into a private health decision. All abortions are justified and are a moral decision.

      From what you said you have very little understanding of mental illness or mental health issues. Which is a pity, because you should really seek some psychiatric help.

      • HeilMary1

        His not understanding women’s need for medical self defense against dangerous pregnancies is definitely a sign of malignant misogyny.

    • Ella Warnock

      “When is someone seriously thinking of killing her own baby in utero NOT suffering some kind of mental disease or defect?”


    • HeilMary1

      Being threatened by a fetus with permanent bladder and bowel incontinence, face and breast cancer, multiple organ failures, sepsis limb amputations, and death would definitely affect my mental health. If human reproduction could be reversed so that fertilized eggs traveled up your penis and snuggled into your testicles, you’d have a “mental health” abortion to save your private parts in a New York minute.

    • hdtex

      Joey when you grow a uterus we’ll consider your opinion.

    • P. McCoy

      You obsess about non sentient fetuses and pollute us with your rape fantasies. Did a woman take out a measuring tape and refuse you because you don’t measure up. As for that ramble, take a break from banging, your head against the wall, that is.

    • fiona64

      Every Prochoice woman who has had 1, 2, 3 or more abortions and
      advocates for abortion on demand for every woman worldwide has a mental
      defect of one sort or another. She wants to “blame” her mental health
      for her need to kill her own gestating baby.

      Hey, dummy? There are plenty of pro-choice women who have had ZERO abortions, and even more who have children. There are plenty of anti-choice women who have had 1, 2, 3 or more abortions … because it’s always “different when it’s your own.”

  • Kevin Carroll

    So your position is that there are many women who cannot access abortions at 10 weeks say, but suddenly at 21 weeks they can? What about the bodily autonomy of the 21 week unborn baby? You gotta laugh at those who call the issue reproductive rights too, you have the right to reproduce, the question is at what point do you cede the right to kill the unborn?

    • ansuz

      The 21-week fetus has no bodily autonomy because its body is not, in fact, autonomous; it requires the support of the pregnant person’s body.

    • Jennifer Starr

      Abortions past twenty weeks are generally for severe fetal anomalies or to save the life or health of the mother–wanted pregnancies gone wrong.

      • Ramanusia

        They don’t care. They’re just fine with women dying as they’ve stated in numerous cases where the fetus was not at all viable and the mother’s life could be saved, but they choose not to.

        • goatini

          If your cow dies, get a new cow.

          To them we are nothing more than livestock.

          • Ramanusia

            Less than livestock. They’ve made that pretty clear, livestock have some inherent value in and of themselves, to them, women do not.

      • colleen2

        Quite so. And when a politician supports a 20 week abortion ban they are saying that a certain number of human sacrifices are acceptable to advance their political career. So, no, I’m not sending money.

        • P. McCoy

          The only human lives you are willing to sacrifice are the women whose lives are on the line because of a dangerous parasitical fetus. Hey, when it happens to you you have my permission to commit suicide. You don’t get to force that for the rest of us.

          • colleen2

            I have no idea what you are talking about here.

    • goatini

      No such thing as an “unborn baby”: you are not an “undead corpse”.

      A 21 week fetus does not have bodily autonomy. Rights accrue to citizens at birth.

      • Ramanusia

        Excellent point!

        • goatini

          Thank you. Logic bests lying forced-birther hyperbole every time.

          • Ramanusia

            Indeed. And it’s nice to see a fellow huffpo refugee :-)

    • Ramanusia

      An 21 week old fetus, or unborn teenager has no bodily autonomy. The question for you is, at what point is the unborn teenager living parasitically off the blood of a woman considered to be more of a person than the person upon whose blood it feeds on?

      At what point exactly does a woman cease to be a person, or a life? When a sperm has entered her vaginal canal? 2 weeks prior to menstruation? Is she ever a human being to you people?

    • hdtex

      Kevin’s mother should have spit…or swallowed.

      • Kevin Carroll

        Your mama swallowed mine, many times.

        • hdtex

          As limp and small as you are that is highly doubtful you impotent old f@ck.

        • Jennifer Starr

          Just listen to those ‘Christian Family Values’….

          • P. McCoy

            Hey just ignore the pencil d**k. He’s probably mad because his Viagra ran out and the hot date that he lied online to to get to meet is coming over in 5 minutes.

          • fiona64

            I know, right? It just makes me want to bust out in the chorus of “We Are One in the Spirit.” Sing along with me, all …

            “And they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love …”

    • P. McCoy

      No such thing as an unborn baby, that’s not a medical term but an emotional one. Whatever I. decide to do with it is not your business. Get the message if you are against abortion THEN DON’T HAVE ONE, case closed.

    • fiona64

      There is no bodily autonomy for a fetus, sweetie; it’s connected to the woman by an umbilicus. I’m sorry you didn’t learn that in high school biology.

      It is so easy to be an anti-choice male, isn’t it? After all, it’s never your health or life at risk due to pregnancy, wanted or unwanted … so you just flap your lips and demand that women assume risks that will never affect you. Ain’t life grand?

    • JamieHaman

      Most of the women who cannot access abortions at 10 weeks simply cannot pay the $600. or so that the abortion costs. For some low income women that is most, if not all of a months’ income. So they have to save the money. More money, because a late term, post 20 week abortion is going to cost more, than one at 10 weeks.
      We can thank a couple of things for that, one is the mandatory ultrasound, which adds about $200. to the cost, two, the closure of clinics, requiring a considerable amount of travel time,(lost wages), gas, hotel and eating costs.

      BTW, there is no bodily autonomy of a 21 week fetus. At that point, it is still a parasite. Fetii become people when they are born.

  • expect_resistance

    “I would love to not have to compromise on a 20-week abortion ban. But right now, Texans have to work with reality. And the reality is that we cannot all pack up our homes and families and relocate to more amenable political geographies; we must do our work here, not just for ourselves, but for the greater good—not the greater perfection.”

    Thanks Andrea. I understand this is difficult but we have to keep fighting.

  • arcsinice

    Given Davis’ past, her utter lack of honesty and integrity, her vicious campaign, how could any self-respecting, dignified, honest individual remotely consider giving their vote to someone so despicable?