Wait, Wendy Supports This Abortion Ban?

Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis supports a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, she told The Dallas Morning News editorial board. You heard that right. The state senator from Fort Worth, Texas, who garnered national attention in June via her epic filibuster of a 20-week abortion ban, says she could have voted for the bill if it had just been about the ban. We couldn't blame you for feeling surprised.

So why did she disapprove of it? In essence, she claims her major objection to Texas' Senate Bill 5, which ultimately passed despite her success in delaying it, had less to do with the ban itself than the targeted regulations it imposed on abortion clinics. It demanded that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges to nearby hospitals (a challenging and tall order) and also required clinics themselves to measure up to the standards of other surgical care centers, a combination of regulations that restricts access beyond merely the 20-week ban.

Davis said that very few abortions in Texas occur after 20 weeks unless the fetus is suffering from abnormalities, or is posing a threat to the life of its mother, both of which she supports. Outside of that, however: "I would line up with most people in Texas who would prefer that that’s not something that happens outside of those two arenas."

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In that comment — "most people in Texas" — lies the likeliest answer to whatever questions you have following this peculiar turn of events. Though Davis recently took heat for drifting right by embracing a controversial open carry gun law, many devotees probably didn't expect her to do the same with basically her signature issue of visibility and appeal. But Davis' desire to distance herself from abortion rights, likely for political benefit (she is running for governor against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, after all), has been apparent for a while. Attacked by Republicans as wanting no level of restriction on abortion (a position deeply unpopular in her state), she'd already clarified that she doesn't support late-term abortion, beyond those exceptions of health, rape, or incest. She declared herself "pro-life" last November, though in a euphemistic sort of way — saying her care for all children without proper nourishment, education, and security meant she was pro-life.

Whether you feel disappointed by Davis' move or not, there's no denying she's the better choice for Texan women's abortion rights than Abbott, who supported SB 5 outright, and has given a slightly cagey answer suggesting he doesn't support a rape exception.

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Nonetheless, Davis has no doubt received higher profile, but also many a fundraising dollar from her image as an indefatigable proponent of a woman's right to choose, even in a blood-red state where doing so can prove intimidating. While it's worth keeping in mind the inevitable concessions and costs of waging a campaign, risking that image with her base in the relative infancy of her statewide career isn't a great option either, and may leave some supporters gnashing their teeth.

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