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Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Davis Discusses Personal Abortion Experience in Memoir

Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Davis Discusses Personal Abortion Experience in Memoir

September 8, 2014 — In a forthcoming memoir, Texas gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) discloses obtaining an abortion 17 years ago during a wanted pregnancy after learning that the fetus had an acute brain abnormality, the San Antonio Express-News reports. She also discusses details surrounding the termination of another pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy that she disclosed previously.

The book, titled "Forgetting to Be Afraid," will be released Tuesday, according to the Express-News (Fikac, San Antonio Express News, 9/6).

Background

Davis drew national attention last year for her 11-hour filibuster that helped stall a restrictive abortion bill from becoming law, although the measure (HB 2) later passed in another special session. Last October, she announced her bid for the governor's office against state Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/4/13).

Some provisions of HB 2 are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/2).

Ectopic Pregnancy

Davis learned in the first trimester of a pregnancy in 1994 that the embryo was implanted outside the uterus. She had two young daughters at the time (AP/New York Times, 9/5). Ectopic pregnancies are not sustainable and can be dangerous to the woman's health if the fallopian tube ruptures. Davis' doctor advised her to end the pregnancy (San Antonio Express News, 9/6).

Davis notes in the memoir that the procedure to end an ectopic pregnancy is "technically considered an abortion" in the state and that "doctors have to report it as such."

Second Abortion Procedure

Davis in the memoir discusses a second abortion for the first time, describing it as an emotionally trying experience that left her permanently changed, according to the AP/New York Times.

She writes that she underwent the procedure in 1996 after a medical examination revealed that the fetus' brain had developed in such a way that the right and left sides of the brain were separated. She consulted several physicians, who told her that if the fetus survived delivery, the child would be deaf, blind and in a permanent vegetative state.

She writes of carrying the pregnancy, "I could feel her little body tremble violently, as if someone were applying an electric shock to her, and I knew then what I needed to do. She was suffering" (AP/New York Times, 9/5).

"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," Davis writes, adding, "And when I finally did come through it, I emerged a different person. Changed. Forever changed."

Davis says that she nearly disclosed the abortion during her filibuster of HB 2 before deciding against it out of concerns that it would overshadow the filibuster's message, according to the Express-News (San Antonio Express-News, 9/6).

Reaction

Groups supporting and opposing abortion rights responded to the memoir over the weekend (Langford/Ura, Texas Tribune, 9/6). Planned Parenthood Votes President Cecile Richards said in a statement, "While no woman should have to justify her decision, abortion later in pregnancy is rare, and is often due to the same sort of tragic and heartbreaking circumstance that [Davis] experienced -- the kind of situation where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available" (Glueck, Politico, 9/6).

Meanwhile, antiabortion-rights groups said that women should continue their pregnancies when there are severe fetal anomalies (Texas Tribune, 9/8). Melissa Conway, a spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, said, "That's an incredibly difficult position for anyone to find themselves in. While our heart goes out for the decision she had to make, again, ... the value of life is precious" (AP/New York Times, 9/5).

Commenting on the political ramifications of Davis' memoir, Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said, "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 continued, "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" (San Antonio Express-News, 9/6).