Politics & Policy

Wendy Davis’s Convenient Abortion Stories

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Struggling Texas candidate tugs heartstrings with unverifiable personal tales.

Texas Democratic-party gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’s new book Forgetting to Be Afraid came out Monday, and the book’s claims have brought some new attention to the floundering Davis campaign. Davis writes that in 1997 she had an abortion that caused “deep, dark despair.” She writes that “Baby Tate” was suffering and would have died shortly after birth.

The abortion was Davis’s second. She claims that the first was done because the pregnancy was ectopic and therefore a danger to her health.

Reactions to the alleged revelation have varied. Some have offered compassion for both Davis and her deceased child, expressing sorrow over Davis’s alleged depression, which is a frequent — and frequently ignored — consequence of abortion. Others have looked at the motivation for publishing the book less than two months before an election that Davis is on course to lose by double digits. Still others question the accuracy of her claims related to the abortion.

“The unspeakable pain of losing a child is beyond tragic for any parent,” said Davis’s opponent, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott. “As a father, I grieve for the Davis family and for the loss of life.”

Likewise, Joe Pojman of the Texas Alliance for Life, told the San Antonio Express-News that Davis “definitely experienced a loss of two children, and we are sympathetic to her for that.” And Operation Rescue senior policy analyst Cheryl Sullenger told this reporter that Davis’s admission of depression is normal. “For many, these feelings impact their lives and make them more susceptible to risky behavior,” Sullenger says.

“Women who have abortions are tragically 154 percent more likely to commit suicide than women who do not have abortions. They are also 144 percent more likely to abuse subsequent children and 500 times more likely to suffer from substance abuse after their abortions, according to a 2000 report in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse,” Sullenger explains.

Other studies have shown that mental illness is common after women have abortions. For example, 2006 and 2008 studies showed links between abortion and increased levels of counseling, marijuana use, and symptoms of mental illness. Likewise, a large Chinese study that looked at thousands of women found that having experienced an abortion within the twelve months prior to a new pregnancy led to a 97 percent greater chance of depression in the new pregnancy. And a 2013 meta-study done in Italy saw greater chances of depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder for women who aborted their unborn children, compared with women who had miscarriages or bore their children to term.

Texas Right to Life’s Emily Horne was more blunt, saying, “Davis’s stated experiences confirm what many post-abortive women feel: the emotional aftermath of abortion. Perhaps Davis’s story will cause some in her own party and her political backers alike to acknowledge the toll an abortion takes on a woman’s overall health and well-being.”

But not all commentary has been focused on the harm Davis suffered post-abortion. Sullenger said that “only Ms. Davis knows the truth about her alleged abortions. We simply do not know the circumstances of Wendy Davis’s apparent abortions.” Sullenger noted that “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.”

“It would be disturbing to think that she may be using her abortions as a way to gain political favor with Democratic voters,” Sullenger added.

Sullenger’s analysis matches that of a 2004 Guttmacher Institute survey of women who had abortions. The survey found that only 4 percent said that “their most important reason” for having an abortion was “physical problems with my health,” and 3 percent named “possible problems affecting the health of the [baby].”

The Davis campaign did not respond to questions about whether Davis’s highly unusual abortions were matched by any medical evidence, doctor statements, or public verification from her ex-husband or two daughters.

The book is coming out just 56 days before an election that pits a Democratic woman against a pro-life man. Abbott has questioned whether the book’s release violates Texas law against corporate funding of politicians, and GOP political consultant Matt Mackowiak told the New York Times, “It’s one thing to bare your soul and put it in your memoir and hope that your own life is something that reaches other people. It’s another to have your campaign on ready alert, doing everything they can to maximize what is ultimately a tragic decision.”

Democrats, however, seem to be cheering the release. “Voters look for a whole bunch of stuff in their candidate, but one key thing they look for is authenticity and another key thing they look for is relatability,” Democratic strategist Harold Cook told the Times. “And I think on both counts, this helps her and might help her a lot. I would challenge you to find very many politicians in America willing to share that level of personal pain with voters. I think it takes a special brand of guts and bravery to do it at all.”

Former Texas governor Mark W. White Jr. likewise said that he hoped that the abortion admission encourages “people who are not decided, independents, [to] stop and think again.”

Davis’s abortion claims are hard to take seriously in light of the Guttmacher statistics. Davis has a history of manipulating both people and the truth: She left ex-husband Jeff one day after he finished paying off her Harvard Law loans — which he managed by cashing his own 401(k). One supporter told the Dallas Morning News that Davis is “not going to let family or raising children or anything else get in her way.” The same anonymous supporter said that Davis works to find “a way to spin herself in a way that grabs at the heart strings. A lot of it isn’t true about her.”

Likewise, Davis has described herself as “pro-life,” in spite of her 2013 filibuster of a bill to make late-term abortions largely illegal in Texas.

Maybe she had the abortion, maybe she didn’t. Maybe her reasons were as compelling as she claims. But the reasons Davis gives for having had her abortions are unproven and statistically unlikely.

— Dustin Siggins is the D.C. correspondent for LifeSiteNews, a former blogger with Tea Party Patriots, and co-author of the forthcoming book Bankrupt Legacy: The Future of the Debt-Paying Generation.


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