State Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, reveals in her new book that she terminated two pregnancies for medical reasons, both more than 15 years ago.
The 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.
“At some point in the almost two weeks of second and third and fourth opinions and tortured decision making, I could feel her little body tremble violently, as if someone were applying an electric shock to her, and I knew then what we needed to do,” Davis added. “She was suffering.”
After their doctor “quieted” the baby, who Davis and her husband had named Tate, Davis delivered the baby by cesarean section. The next day, she wrote, “we asked an associate minister from our church who was a trusted friend to come and baptize her. We took photographs of her. And we said our goodbyes.”
She said a nurse brought the baby to her and “had dressed her in a tiny pink dress and placed a knit cap on her enlarged head.”
“On her feet were crocheted booties, and next to her was a small crocheted pink bunny. Jeff and I spent the better part of the day holding her, crying for her and for us,” Davis wrote. After the baby was “taken away and cremated,” Davis describes the despair that followed.
“An indescribable blackness followed. It was a deep, dark despair and grief, a heavy wave that crushed me, that made me wonder if I would ever surface,” she wrote. “It would take me the better part of a year to ultimately make my way up and out of it. And when I finally did come through it, I emerged a different person. Changed. Forever changed.”
An earlier pregnancy in 1994 was terminated as it was an ectopic pregnancy, in which an embryo implants outside the uterus. This time, Davis and her husband were pregnant with a baby boy, who they referred to as “Baby Lucas.”
Davis says that her doctor said it would be dangerous to her health to continue the pregnancy. “The only medical option was to have surgery to terminate the pregnancy and remove the affected fallopian tube — which in Texas is technically considered an abortion, and doctors have to report it as such,” she wrote.
“We all grieved the loss, but I grieved most deeply — a sadness and an emptiness took root in me where Baby Lucas had been,” Davis wrote.
There are excerpts available here. I trust that folks who had been complaining that Davis hadn’t spoken enough about abortion during her campaign will give that a rest now. Everyone agrees that this is A Very Big Deal, but I doubt anyone knows how it will play out politically. Just as we’d never had a President announce support for same sex marriage until 2012, I can’t offhand think of a similar statement of this magnitude in a high-profile election. Certainly, nothing like this that wasn’t considered to be shameful, if not career-ending, from infidelity to pot-smoking to divorce to mental illness and so on and so forth. Oh, there will be people who will believe this to be shameful, but I doubt any of them were the least bit sympathetic to Davis in the first place. It will be interesting to see if the troglodyte brigade – Erick Erickson and the like – manages to keep a lid on their baser impulses or not. I wouldn’t hold my breath on it, but you never know. As for this election, I’d say the conventional wisdom is as follows, from that Express News story:
Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said he doesn’t expect the revelation to lose any votes for Davis, since he said it’s a relative small proportion of voters who oppose abortion in cases of severe fetal abnormality.
“The group that will be most bothered by her having an abortion of a baby with a severe fetal abnormality is a group that wasn’t going to vote for her anyway,” he said.
“The positive side of it for her is it humanizes her, and also makes it a little tricky for opponents to attack her on the abortion issue because now, it not only is a political issue for her, but it’s a personal issue,” Jones said.
Like I said, we’ll see what the trolls do. They never truly go away, and they can be clever sometimes. It’s hard for me to believe that at least one prominent member of the Republican political establishment won’t find a way to step in it between now and November.
Two numbers to keep in mind. Here’s one:
In the June 2014 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, we asked registered voters in Texas under what circumstances they felt it would be okay for a woman to obtain an abortion, including when the woman’s life was in danger and when “there is a strong chance of a serious defect in the baby.” Overall, 76% of Texans thought a woman should be allowed to have an abortion when her life was in danger, and 57% thought that a woman should be able to obtain an abortion when there was a strong chance of a serious fetal abnormality.
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.
You can feel however you want to about that. I’m not going to change your mind, and you’re not going to change mine. But it’s a fantasy – a very dangerous, deadly fantasy – to think that we can somehow eliminate abortion. For a wide variety of reasons, a large number of women every year want them, need them, and get them. Making abortion illegal won’t make it go away any more than making marijuana illegal made people not smoke pot. We can allow women to have unfettered access to this medical procedure in safe places by medical professionals, or we can put up all sorts of needless, petty, and harmful barriers between her and her doctor and hope against all evidence that she’ll change her mind. My fantasy is that someday we recognize the cruel fallacy of that. The Trib has a video clip from Davis’ appearance on Good Morning America to be aired tomorrow as well as more excerpts – clearly, someone has been busy reading over there – and BOR and Texpatriate have more.