Women politicians break the abortion taboo.
September 6, 2014 5:52 PM   Subscribe

"I emerged a different person. Changed. Forever changed.” Davis describes the circumstances of her two abortions in her new memoir, Forgetting to Be Afraid.

Nevada Lt. Gov. candidate Lucy Flores has also been open about having an abortion as a teen.
posted by emjaybee (33 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I applaud these brave women. They are so very right to put this out there. It's time we stood our ground on this issue. Women have a right to be in politics and we need them there. Women sometimes have reason to seek abortion and, thank all the women who fought for it, women have a right to decide this issue for themselves. Let's elect some more women and keep this country safe for women.
posted by Anitanola at 6:07 PM on September 6, 2014 [28 favorites]

I'm really glad that Ms. Davis has decided to share this with the public. I have a feeling that there are a lot (a LOT) of women who have had to end similar pregnancies, and have somehow felt shame or ostracized and alone. The more voices, the better.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:09 PM on September 6, 2014 [8 favorites]

The Associated Press reported that Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Melissa Conway said Friday, “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, still the value of life is precious.”

"Sorry you had to go through that gut-wrenchingly heartbreaking situation. Nonetheless, I still know better than you how you should have lived your life."
posted by The Gooch at 6:14 PM on September 6, 2014 [59 favorites]

I am so glad Wendy Davis came out and talked about this, even knowing what terrible things have been and will continue to be said about her on the topic of abortion rights (e.g., the horrible Abortion Barbie cracks). She's an awesome woman and I dearly hope she's my next governor.
posted by immlass at 6:27 PM on September 6, 2014 [13 favorites]

most abortions happen at home
posted by robbyrobs at 6:28 PM on September 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

I wonder if there is a way for me to move to Texas in time to vote for Ms. Davis. Of course there are politicians here who need my vote too, but they just aren't as compelling.
posted by TedW at 6:29 PM on September 6, 2014

The deadline for registration in Texas for November's election is Oct. 4th.
posted by muddgirl at 7:15 PM on September 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Melissa Conway said Friday

That was actually vastly more restrained than the commentary I expect from self-identified Right to Life organisations. And she's right; life is precious. Wendy Davis's life is precious.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:56 PM on September 6, 2014 [15 favorites]

How soon can Wendy Davis realistically make a run for President?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:59 PM on September 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

As soon as she moves to a state that is actually going to elect her to statewide office. I suggest California. It's got a nicer climate than New York.

No, but seriously, I'm bummed that her campaign has never really taken off here. I'm not sure she'll ever be the right candidate for Texas, but she's certainly an important voice and I'm glad that she's out there telling these truths. In a sense, this seems like the best tactic that Democrats here in Texas could employ: lose races while still controlling the conversation and forcing our country to look at itself and its problems.
posted by jph at 8:22 PM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

still the value of life is precious

Until birth, then the slut should get a job and quit looking for handouts. Jesus only cares about unborn babies.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:59 PM on September 6, 2014 [23 favorites]

How soon can Wendy Davis realistically make a run for President?

I think you really shouldn't pick your president based on something they did or didn't do 20 years ago, whether it is having an abortion, smoking weed or bullying another kid when they were in high school. It just distracts from the really important issues, such as where they want to take the country in the future.
posted by sour cream at 10:00 PM on September 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

The more that people speak up about their experiences, the more change will happen. This applies to essentially all "verboten" topics. Abortion. Police brutality. Corruption. Depression. Prejudice. As cynical as I am, I do believe that most people, once informed, do not wish suffering on others. But to get there, they first have to hear about it.

Also: Wendy Davis is a hero.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:01 PM on September 6, 2014 [13 favorites]

Mohan Kale is also a hero. Shipping pills at cost. Awesome. I need to find out how to help subsidize this. No one should be looking at spending 3x their salary to get help.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:12 PM on September 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wendy Davis filibustered for abortion rights for eleven hours. That was last year, not twenty years ago, sour cream. She's brave for speaking out honestly about her abortion, but it's her current leadership that's what inspires people to want to elect her President.
posted by gingerest at 5:16 AM on September 7, 2014 [22 favorites]

1/3 of American women will have an abortion by the time they're 40. Most women seeking abortion already have at least one child.

The fact that abortion is so commonplace, yet so hidden, tells us a lot about our culture and its attitudes towards sex.

Because let's be honest, it isn't about "life", it's about sex. More specifically it's about shaming women who have sex. It's about denying that sex is used by pretty much everyone for fun and that babies are a side effect, not the main reason people have sex.

It's about our cultural double standard that says women shouldn't want sex, or like sex, and certainly shouldn't want sex for any reason other than babies. That women who do want sex for non-baby purposes are vile, disgusting, and in dire need of punishment and coercion to force them into the acceptable role.

And that's why it's a brave thing for a woman to be public about having an abortion even though abortions are so incredibly common. And that's also why the right wing culture warriors are so desperate to keep abortion illegal, or stigmatized, or in some other way suppressed. Because if we admit that women have sex for pleasure then one of their major social/political planks vanishes.

All the yammer about life being precious is just a smokescreen. Maybe a few of the rubes buy it, though I increasingly doubt it, but no one in a leadership position on the right gives a shit about babies or life. It's about social control and nothing else.

As with so much that is about social control, simply coming out of the closet is a powerful political act, and a threat to the right. As long as women are silent about abortion it is possible for the right to continue their grotesque charade of pretending they care about babies. It is possible for men to continue to pretend that abortion is something only a tiny handful of super sluts care about, much less ever have.

Which is why it is both brave, and good, for Davis and other women in the public eye to be public about their abortion(s). It destroys the right wing mythology of abortion and replaces it with the truth about abortion.
posted by sotonohito at 5:34 AM on September 7, 2014 [35 favorites]

I think you really shouldn't pick your president based on something they did or didn't do 20 years ago, whether it is having an abortion, smoking weed or bullying another kid when they were in high school. It just distracts from the really important issues, such as where they want to take the country in the future.
I think that what people are impressed with here is that she's telling the truth about something about which most women are pressured into silence. That's brave and it's powerful, and it absolutely speaks to her capabilities as a leader.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:37 AM on September 7, 2014 [14 favorites]

Thinking about the flip side, it makes me wonder how many pro-life male political leaders have been involved in a pregnancy that was terminated. If it's anything like the amount of hypocrisy revealed in right wingers who've had extramarital affairs, I imagine that number is a large one. As more women are able to bravely step up and talk about their own abortions [raises hand, outs self], I can see others gaining the courage to come forward and point those fingers.
posted by drlith at 5:48 AM on September 7, 2014 [9 favorites]

Because let's be honest, it isn't about "life", it's about sex. More specifically it's about shaming women who have sex.

I tend to be suspicious of blanket statements prefaced by "let's be honest". Your brush is too broad, and I've known too many pro-lifers for whom this is not the case- they really do care about the unborn. Let's be honest and give them some credence.

I'd add that the more deeply conservative types I know are pretty contemptuous of men who have unmarried sex, so there's that as well.

FWIW, I speak as a pro-choicer.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:51 AM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't know. I certainly can't speak to all anti-choice people, but if it really were about preventing abortion, then I think they would be fighting for the things that we know reduce the abortion rate: comprehensive sex ed, better access to contraception, and better support for families and children. And a lot of them actively oppose those things, so I think it's safe to say that it's largely about sex, not about "protecting the unborn."

And that's one reason that Wendy Davis can speak out about her abortions, when other women would pay a much bigger political price. I don't think that most Americans would consider terminating an ectopic pregnancy to be an abortion, and only the hardest hard-liners oppose abortion in cases where the fetus isn't viable and the pregnancy is overwhelmingly likely to kill the woman. (I have encountered those people, for what it's worth: they say that occasionally women survive ectopic pregnancies, that miracles happen, that it's God's will, and it's always wrong to kill an embryo. But they're waaaay out on the fringe.) And an awful lot of Americans would be sympathetic to a married woman who decided with her husband to abort a much-wanted and loved fetus because they believed their baby would be destined to live a short, painful life. As Amanda Marcotte points out, it's a lot harder to say what Lucy Flores said: that she had an abortion because she didn't want to have a baby at that stage in her life. And even though Flores's life story is compelling, and even though having that baby at 16 would have made it much more difficult for her to claw her way out of really difficult circumstances, a lot of people would believe that she should have accepted her baby punishment for having sex.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:12 AM on September 7, 2014 [23 favorites]

I think you really shouldn't pick your president based on something they did or didn't do 20 years ago, whether it is having an abortion, smoking weed or bullying another kid when they were in high school. It just distracts from the really important issues, such as where they want to take the country in the future.

To be clear, I like Wendy Davis for her filibuster, and her willingness (as far as I know) to stand up and be a real liberal and a feminist in a place where they aren't all that welcome. I don't thinking having had an abortion 20 years ago qualifies (or disqualifies) her for office, but I do think talking about it in today's political climate shows solid character.

I also think she's a gubernatorial candidate receiving national attention, who has written a book about her life. I would be very surprised if she isn't planning a run for President at some point, and I am interested in when that might be. (Though only in a casual sort of way since I am not American. )
posted by jacquilynne at 7:13 AM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

@IndigoJones, I'm afraid I must disagree in the strongest possible sense.

I will agree that given the wide variety of humanity and our capicity for self delusion and compartmentalization it is certainly likely that somewhat less than 100% of the advocates of forced childbirth are lying about their motives.

But if it's any less than 90% I'll be stunned.

I speak not from ignorance, but from experience. I've spent 38 years of my life living surrounded by advocates of forced birth. I've never been more than a literal stone's throw from such people, I've conversed with hundreds of them on a variety of topics and dozens specifically about abortion.

And in real life I'm a soft spoken sort of person, the closest to argument I've gotten was just asking questions that they took calmly and peaceably.

And out of the advocates of forced childbirth I've spoken to on topic, every single one has used the phrase "well, she should have kept her legs closed" or some variant thereon. Every. Single. One. No exceptions.

Furthermore, we know that people lie. I'm very reluctant to declare any particular behavior to be universal to humans, but lying may very well be universal. People lie all the time, they lie casually, blatantly, easily, and without hesitation.

So I tend to work by actions, not words. Words can be false, actions tend to be less so.

Quick question: out of all organized forced childbirth organizations in the USA how many are centered around reducing abortion via sex education and free contraception? Answer: exactly zero.

Most organizations which advocate forced childbirth are not merely indifferent to contraception and sex education, but actively and vigorously opposed to both. Yes, many are Catholic, but that doesn't excuse anything. Also, many aren't Catholic.

But, strangely, not one single national "pro-life" organization actually works to reduce the abortion rate. Not one. Instead they all pursue a policy of forced childbirth. All of them.

So no, I'm through with the mealy mouthed pretense that we must take the lies of our enemies for truth. I will call them what they are: right wing social warriors pursuing an agenda of social control via sexual shaming and sexual control who lie to claim that they are motivated by concerns for fetal life.

I have little doubt, compartmentalization being what it is, that some of them, perhaps even many, manage to work themselves into a froth about fetal life during their hate rallies. But they do not start with concern for fetal life and arrive at the decision to control the sexuality of women, they start with the desire to control the sexuality of women and arrive at a made up and lying concern for fetal life. The love of babies is something they put on and take off like a coat, it is not at the heart of matters.

If they genuinely, truly, honestly, considered abortion to be murder, fetuses and embryos to be babies, then they'd be working to reduce the abortion rate, not to mandate forced childbirth.

So I'll be honest: they're right wing culture warriors who have dressed up their unpalatable true objectives in lies about loving fetuses. As long as we continue with this wimpy, mealy mouthed, insistence on believing their blatantly lying words rather than their honest actions, we will lose.

Which is why I applaud Wendy Davis, she and the other women who come out of the closet about their abortions are an existential threat to the advocates of forced childbirth. It is only when abortion is kept secret and shameful that they can win.
posted by sotonohito at 10:43 AM on September 7, 2014 [28 favorites]

All the yammer about life being precious is just a smokescreen. Maybe a few of the rubes buy it, though I increasingly doubt it, but no one in a leadership position on the right gives a shit about babies or life. It's about social control and nothing else.

Please. This issue will never be helpfully addressed until this kind of categorical, false, blanket statement-making is banished on both sides. Your statement makes all people who speak out on this issue "yammerers" and people who don't "rubes."

Until intelligent people on the left can understand that a lot of people on the right actually have some intelligent views on this matter, instead of being evil, puppets, or idiots (or all three)...eh.

Like IndigoJones, I am also an ardent pro-choicer. But I don't categorically dismiss everyone who disagrees with me as a fucking idiot. And I'm not one either.
posted by beanie at 11:04 AM on September 7, 2014

"categorically dismiss everyone who disagrees with me as a fucking idiot"

beanie, sotonohito did not say this.
posted by Anitanola at 11:34 AM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

It doesn't have to be about idiocy. It most definitely can be about using pregnancy and birth to control and punish women. And when you look at the severe lack of efforts to either reduce pregnancy rates or support women raising born children, it is supremely difficult to come to any other conclusion about the motives of antichoice organizations.

As for individuals, it is their responsibility to examine the motives and effects of the organizations they support. Especially given that an antichoice agenda results in increased mortality rates and poverty for the women affected by it.

Intent is not magic. Loving babies doesn't get you off the hook for hurting women and children.
posted by emjaybee at 12:49 PM on September 7, 2014 [10 favorites]

beanie: I didn't say they were idiots, I said they were liars.

And I think that the evidence rather backs me up here. If they wanted to reduce the rate of abortion, they'd be advocating two specific policy agendas with banning abortion as a third, optional, thing. We don't have to guess about what reduces abortions, we know. It isn't a matter of opinion, but of fact. Abortions are not reduced by outlawing them, in fact the abortion rate in nations where it is illegal is higher than the abortion rate in nations where it is legal. Its one of those perverse effect things.

The abortion rate is demonstrated, proven, to drop (and drop sharply) when schools have fact based, contraceptive centered, age appropriate, sex ed starting in kindergarten and continuing through high school. We also know that abortion rates drop (and drop sharply) when contraceptives are easily and freely available. Colorado is the latest example of this with their teen pregnancy rate declining by 40% after contraceptives were made freely available.

If, as claimed, the pro-forced childbirth faction were motivated by deep concerns for fetal life they would at least include sex education and freely available contraception in their list of goals alongside banning the procedure. But they don't. In fact, the overwhelming majority are unequivocally opposed to both of the things that are known and proven to reduce the number of abortions.

Either they are insane, too stupid to pour piss out of a boot, or they're lying.

And, after countless hours of conversation with people who self identify as "pro-life", I know they aren't insane or stupid. I also know that every single one of them that I've spoken with is a staunch social conservative who firmly believes in "traditional values" which basically boils down to obedience to the sexual taboos of their fantasy of what the 1950's was like.

That's why they are so reluctant to discuss sex and and contraception as they apply to abortion. Because they know that topic proves the lie of their proclaimed concern for fetal life. Suddenly people who were breathing rhetorical fire about the sanctity of life, the utter urgency and all consuming importance of stopping abortion at all costs, the fact that a woman's bodily autonomy must, MUST they say, take second place to the overriding concern of fetal life, suddenly when the topic of reducing abortion via sex ed and contraception arises they start equivocating, they start talking about how fetal life is nice and all but there's these other, equally important, reasons why they can't possibly support contraception or sex ed. Because contraception and sex ed are the exact opposite of their true agenda: policing America's sexuality.

I'm not going to break the rule by calling out specific mefites, but I've been in several discussions here on the blue where the person on the forced birth side who was previously arguing that fetal life is the ultimate concern against which no other concerns are valid, and when the topic of reducing abortion by the only two methods proven to do so came up, suddenly these people reversed course and revealed that "saving babies" was not, in fact, paramount among their concerns. I'm sure you know who I'm talking about.

There may be a microscopic number of forced birthers who genuinely care about fetuses. If so they're so rare that I've never met one, and I've met and spoken with hundreds of forced birthers. They're also utterly insignificant to the larger forced birth movement.

What holds us on the left back is our reluctance to call out the liars for Jesus. We coddle them, we pander to their lies, we pretend to believe their blatant falsehoods are really their deeply held beliefs. And that keeps us fighting shadows and smoke while they go about their real goal largely unhindered by us on the left.

Davis, Flores, and all the other women who are going public about their abortions are so attacked by the right, and so beloved by the left, precisely because by coming out of the closet they (deliberately or not) shine the light of truth on the right wing lies. The forced birth faction can't stand it when people talk about abortion as it really is (ie: a common medical procedure that over 1/3 of US women will undergo for the purposes of not having (more) children).

They tell us that abortion is murder, that they believe fetuses and embryos are babies, that women who have abortions are either the worst of villains, or debauched innocents who are duped by a cruel and heartless abortion industry. And Davis, Flores, and the others show that women who get abortions are just women who had sex, got pregnant, and didn't want a baby.

You can keep up the mealy mouthed pretense that the right wing isn't lying about their motives for abortion, I certainly won't demand you change your mind or your words. But I'll keep telling the truth. I tried it your way for years and it did absolutely nothing. So I'll keep telling the truth, hard though that truth may be, and I'll keep supporting Davis, and Flores, and any other woman who tells the truth.
posted by sotonohito at 1:04 PM on September 7, 2014 [18 favorites]

But, strangely, not one single national "pro-life" organization actually works to reduce the abortion rate. Not one. Instead they all pursue a policy of forced childbirth. All of them.

Well, sure, once the pregnancy is underway, they sort of have to, no? Kind of like abolitionists had to insist on total emancipation.

This is of course not the same as preventing unwanted pregnancy, which I'm guessing all pro-life organizations are for. And indeed, there are pro-life organizations that acknowledge that abstinence is not always going to fly.

As to pro-lifer being primarily an anti-sex thing, particularly an anti-woman-sex-thing - imagine for a moment that we could take aborted fetuses out of the picture entirely. No dead babies or proto-babies, just plain old fornication. What you're left with is a Hester Prynne situation.

Which in a small town can be pretty unpleasant for a 21st century Ms Prynne, but no politician is going to get political traction running on a Sew-a-Scarlet-A-on-Hester-Prynne ticket, not without a dead fetus picture. Sure, plenty of social conservatives despair at promiscuity (and let us admit, pregnancy aside, promiscuity can come with some pretty heavy baggage, particularly for women) but it’s not the stuff that incites mass protest rallies, much less serious political movements.

No lie.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:31 PM on September 7, 2014

This is of course not the same as preventing unwanted pregnancy, which I'm guessing all pro-life organizations are for.

You would guess very, very wrongly.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:47 PM on September 7, 2014 [10 favorites]

This is of course not the same as preventing unwanted pregnancy, which I'm guessing all pro-life organizations are for.

National Right to Life is among the most establishment of anti-abortion groups - they've been around forever - and the only mentions of birth control on their site occur when they talk about abortion as birth control, and what people can do to keep Obamacare from forcing religious employers to pay for employees' birth control. That's how important they think preventing unwanted pregnancy is.
posted by rtha at 5:38 PM on September 7, 2014 [12 favorites]

IndigoJones, let me make an analogy. Imagine for a moment that every anti-breast cancer organization in America focused purely on double mastectomies. Their goal was to mandate double mastectomy for every woman in America, and they were not merely indifferent to other approaches to breast cancer but were actively opposed to mammograms, breast self exams, chemotherapy, limited surgery, etc. You'd be justified in thinking that their goal wasn't really ending breast cancer, but rather simply an opposition to breasts.

Much the same applies to the advocates of forced birth. Yes, if a group was genuinely concerned about fetal life then advocating for an end to legal abortion could reasonably be seen as being a part of their agenda. But, given that we know bans on abortion perversely result in an increase in abortion, and given that we know that better sex ed and free contraception are proven to be successful in dramatically reducing the abortion rate then you'd also reasonably expect that people genuinely working from a concern for fetal life would favor sex ed and free contraception and advocate for those things.

Instead we find that the forced birth advocates actively oppose both sex ed and free contraception. Their motive, therefore, cannot be concern for fetal life. QED.

As for Hester and dead babies, that's exactly my point. The dead baby message came from a realization that pure and obvious slut shaming was not the winning political approach it once was. The goal (social control via sexual control) didn't change, but the messaging did. The dead babies part is an add on to give the goal more emotional traction. But that's my point, the dead babies line is a sideshow. It may be something that, during the designated two minute hate periods they really get worked up over, but outside those times dead babies are the farthest things from their minds (as evidenced by the opposition to free contraception and sex ed).

The lie is that their political agenda flows from concern for fetal life, while the reality is that the ostentatious displays of concern for fetal life are there to dress up their political agenda. Note, again, that in any conversation with a forced birth advocate the talk will not focus on dead babies, but rather slutty women. You talk about circumstances, and choice, and bodily autonomy, and they don't say "BUT DEAD BABEEZ!" instead they say "she had her choice when she decided to spread her legs" [1].

As for the forced birth organizations, as other have pointed out, they are quite opposed to both sex ed and free contraception. In fact, banning contraception is on the official agenda of a few of them.

Which is why I say that the truth is that their agenda is social control via sexual control (mostly of women). The goal is to create the mythic 1950's of Leave it to Beaver where sex (officially) happens only between married couples for the purposes of procreation, where women are shackled to their reproductive systems and by that means shackled to the home and excluded from the workplace, and where social order and control is maintained in part by forced, loveless, marriages between people who don't much like each other but got knocked up. The battle for most conservatives is still against the 1960's, and the liberation that came with the pill and the Griswold decision that gave us legally available contraception.

[1] As a totally irrelevant footnote, I will observe that even that line reflects a desire for sexual control as it implies a missionary position, and apparently exists in ignorance of the multitude of sexual positions for penis in vagina sex that don't require the vagina haver to spread their legs.
posted by sotonohito at 5:46 AM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Kevin Drum: How Many People Really, Truly Believe That Abortion Is Murder?
If you look at actions, rather than words, it just doesn't add up. Lots of people oppose abortion, but with very few exceptions, they very plainly don't react to it the same way they react to a genuine murder. Their emotional response gives the game away, even if they've convinced themselves otherwise intellectually.

DesJarlais is a good example. If he had encouraged the murder of two children—real murder, of kids who were a year or two old—he wouldn't merely be having a tough primary. Regardless of whether he had managed to avoid conviction for his acts, he wouldn't even be able to run for office, let alone be even odds to win. He'd be a pariah. That's how people react to actual killing. But it's not how they react to encouraging abortion. As long as DesJarlais is otherwise on the right side of the culture wars, it'll be shrugged off as unfortunate but not disqualifying.

So don't tell me that all the conservative Christians in DesJarlais' district believe that abortion is murder. They may say they believe it. They may even sincerely think they believe it. But they don't.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:08 AM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think actually plenty of anti-choice people would happily agree to the idea that they are as interested in "controlling women's sexuality" as saving fetal life - they just would probably not frame it that way. They'd probably want to say something more like, providing context and meaning to intimacy. Social conservatives generally don't think the sexual revolution was an improvement for anyone.

Social liberals see sex (like everything) as an individual expression or exploration, while social conservatives understand it to play a special role as the social bond that forms families and creates the next generation. Since social conservatism is not super popular, especially among young people, they don't really concentrate on this in campaigns, but it's not exactly hidden.
posted by mdn at 12:37 AM on September 9, 2014

« Older Growing Up Kinky   |   Six beers you should always have in your fridge... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments