The right's bogus attack on Wendy Davis

A predictable new ad campaign criticizes her record on abortion -- here are the facts

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published October 3, 2013 4:15PM (EDT)

Wendy Davis                   (AP/Eric Gay)
Wendy Davis (AP/Eric Gay)

Just in time for Texas state senator Wendy Davis -- who rose to a prominent place in the political spotlight this summer after her epic 11 hour filibuster over the draconian Senate Bill 5 – to announce her candidacy for governor on Thursday, the Texas Right to Life organization is rolling out radio ads denouncing her as the "abortion zealot" they want voters to think she is.

But considering that Texas Right to Life boldly calls itself the "Pro-Life Truth Team," maybe it'd be a good time to examine the truthiness of that team. On its site, it states "Wendy Davis opposes any limits on abortion and even called late term abortions 'sacred ground.'" In the ad, which will run in English and Spanish, the organization declares, "Wendy Davis puts late-term abortion ahead of our faith, our families and our Texas values…. This past summer, Republicans and Democratic state legislators passed limits on second and third trimester abortions when babies are fully formed. Extremist groups protested this new law and rallied around abortion zealot State Senator Wendy Davis. Wendy Davis believes terminating babies even halfway through pregnancy is okay. Wendy Davis is wrong on life, wrong for our children and wrong for Texas."

How "okay" does Davis feel about the issue? Here's what she said in a July interview with the Texas Observer: "The mutual goal is to decrease abortion. No one is pro abortion…. The only thing that really gets to the root of decreasing that demand is decreasing unplanned pregnancies. And the only way to do that is to empower women to be able to achieve that. Women want to be responsible, and I think it is disrespectful to assume that women empowered to prevent unplanned pregnancies won’t choose that…. And the idea that somehow if we talk to young people about sex and the consequences of unprotected sex will create a demand for it is really absurd and unfortunately is contributing to the high rate of teen pregnancy we see in Texas." Oh my God, what a lunatic. In a piece she wrote for CNN that same month, she noted that Senate Bill 5 "would close down almost 90% of the women's clinics in this state. This comes after more than 50 women's health clinics providing cancer screening and family planning services were closed because the Republicans withdrew state-financed support from them. Under this draconian proposal, a state as expansive as Texas would have only five clinics remaining to serve thousands and thousands of women." Oh, yeah, sounds like she's all about abortion and nothing but. Davis' crazed position is that "The Supreme Court has made that decision, and it's one of the protected liberties under our Constitution, and I respect the Constitutional protections that are in place today." Extremist!

And that quote that late term abortion is "sacred ground"? What Davis said during an August luncheon: "I will seek common ground because we all must. But sometimes you have to take a stand on sacred ground. Liberty: the freedom to choose what your future will hold." She didn't call abortion sacred, you illiterate numbskulls, she called liberty sacred.

Sure, she has voted consistently in favor of women's health and against attempts to undermine reproductive freedom. And though she's taken considerable guff from the far right for stating, regarding late abortions, that "I again think that a lot of people don't really understand the landscape of what's happening in that arena today and what an incredibly small percentage of procedures take place," she is quite correct. What is lost in the overheated rhetoric around choice is that late term procedures make up 1 percent of all abortions – and that the reasons women seek them often include devastating and fatal fetal abnormalities. What is conveniently overlooked in all the ostensible concern over precious life is that, as Dr. Susan Robinson, one of only four late term abortion providers in the nation explains, "This is a complex issue. This is not done casually." Sometimes in life we are forced to make very difficult choices, but in this country, we still have a constitutionally protected right to make those choices. That's not zealotry. That's being reasonable and respectful. Not everyone is pro-choice, but as Davis has said, with words coming out of her own mouth, "No one is pro abortion." And that, despite what the Texas Right to Life contingent would have you believe, is the truth.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Abortion After Tiller Right To Life State Sen. Wendy Davis War On Women Wendy Davis