Wendy Davis' 20-Week Abortion Position Isn't A Betrayal At All

A lot of people were confused earlier this week when Wendy Davis, known primarily as a crusader for abortion rights, came out and said that she could support a 20-week abortion ban if it gave “due deference to the decision-making that belongs between a woman and her doctor.” The reactions on the left were varied — some accused Davis of betrayal, while others accused those people of failing to understand her actual position on abortion. On Friday, Davis clarified her earlier comments, but even if she hadn't, liberals who accused her of betraying them were both factually incorrect and enormously unhelpful to the larger progressive movement.

“I've been disappointed with how the reporting has characterized my conversation with the Dallas Morning News,” Davis told the San Antonio Express-News. “What I tried to convey there was that it's impossible for the Legislature to define artfully enough exceptions that will accommodate everyday situations that women are facing in that arena, and that it has to be left to a woman and her doctor.”

Davis, who’s running for governor against Attorney General Greg Abbott, added that she “would not advocate for a 20-week ban because I don't believe that it can capture and respect and give due deference to decision-making that belongs between a woman and her doctor.”

A few points here. First, Davis' initial comments were somewhat perplexing, because any ban — by virtue of being a ban — doesn’t afford any deference to anybody. In addition, her opposition to Texas’s abortion bill last summer was based not the 20-week ban, but other provisions in the same bill, primarily those that restrict — severely — how abortion clinics are allowed to operate in the state. Because of those rules, all but six clinics in Texas will be forced to shut down.

Most importantly, though, is a simple fact a lot coastal liberals, myself included, tend to forget: This is Texas we’re talking about. It’s not California. The choice isn’t between Wendy Davis and Elizabeth Warren; the choice is between Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott, a man who publicly maintains that abortion rights proponents are “tools of Satan.” For liberals to impose an ideological purity test on Davis when she is, by Texas standards, an unusually progressive and viable gubernatorial candidate is self-defeating and wholly unsympathetic to liberals who actually have to live with all of the unfortunate political realities in Texas.

In a fantastic column at RH Reality Check that you should read right now, Texas native Andrea Grimes explains why reproductive health advocates need to check themselves before criticizing Davis' position on 20-week abortions:

I don’t agree with Davis’ position on this today, and I didn’t agree with her last summer at the state capitol ... 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.


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.

Davis isn’t a perfect liberal — who is? She is, however, the best shot Democrats have to take the governor’s mansion in a blood-red state and, in doing so, undo some of the damage that Rick Perry and his minions have inflicted on Texas. The real betrayal here isn't Davis; it's blue state progressives who are willing throw Davis — and, by extension, Texas women — under the bus on account of one ideological imperfection.

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