No Surprise: Right-wing Activists Respond to Davis News with Sneering Contempt

The long-running war the religious right has waged on women and their freedom to decide for themselves whether and when to have children found a new target this weekend: the acknowledgement by state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for Texas governor, that she had two abortions in the 1990s because of truly heartbreaking medical reasons.

The first was in 1994, when Davis found out she had an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy cannot proceed normally, the fertilized egg can’t survive, and the woman’s life is also in serious jeopardy if the pregnancy isn’t terminated. Davis’ second abortion was in 1997, after multiple doctors told her that the daughter she and her husband were expecting suffered from a severe brain abnormality and would likely not survive delivery or would, if she did survive, be in a permanent vegetative state.

Faced with excrutiatingly difficult decisions and after considering the advice of her doctors, Davis chose to terminate both pregnancies. She and her husband grieved over the loss.

But Melissa Conway of the radical anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life, treats Davis’ revelation and what she experienced with open contempt. In a sneering opinion column on the Texas Tribune’s TribTalk website, Conway pretends to know why Davis really grieved — because she chose abortion:

“Davis’ stated experiences confirm what many post-abortive women feel: the emotional aftermath of abortion.”

What an appallingly callous and calculating thing to say. Davis experienced the kind of deep, painful grief any expectant parent would feel were she to lose a child she wanted so much. But Conway uses that awful misfortune and tragedy to push an ideological argument carefully designed to torment women who seek abortion care. Conway also has the gall to call Davis “extreme” because the senator wants all women to have the same ability to make their own choices about their health and their pregnancies without politicians interfering.

Joe Pojman, head of another radical anti-abortion group, Texas Alliance for Life, said in a statement that “we do not favor or advise abortion in cases when the child has disabilities.” So Pojman is now a medical expert who knows better than the multiple physicians who consulted with Davis and her husband? The level of arrogance and contempt Pojman demonstrates in his statement is simply staggering to behold. Davis didn’t need — nor does any woman need — a political activist and professional busybody “advising” her about what she should do in such situations.

In any case, Davis shouldn’t have to justify her deeply personal choice to terminate those two pregnancies. She made her decisions after long, difficult discussions with her family and her doctors. Fortunately, she was able to obtain safe, legal abortion care at the time. But if people like Conway and Pojman — and the politicians they support — get their way, Texas women will see their ability to choose for themselves whether to seek abortion care increasingly limited or denied altogether.

3 thoughts on “No Surprise: Right-wing Activists Respond to Davis News with Sneering Contempt

  1. The comments are truly disgusting, but the article also brings up a question of focus that has long bothered me about the abortion debate. There are two ways that Wendy Davis’ story can be framed. To put them simplistically, they are:

    a) “Fergawdsakes, no matter how you feel about abortion in general, even you aren’t so heartless as to deny it in cases like these”


    b) “Wendy Davis’ experiences are extreme examples of the type of tragedy ‘pregnancy forcing’ causes every day, and are simply stronger arguments for why we need to protect the right to an abortion.”

    The first has long been the main argument we have used, and it has had some positive effects, both in ‘softening hearts’ and in making people see that the real extremists really are “just that heartless.”

    But I have come to question, after watching it play out over three decades, if it may be an argument that hurts in the long run as much as it may help in the short.

    After all, it almost treats abortion as a ‘privilege’ we should gladly ‘grant’ to women who are in the classic categories, victims of rape or incest or women whose health would not permit them to bring this particular pregnancy to term. This may ‘tug the heartstrings’ of the more moderate opponents, yes, but it does nothing to argue that abortion is or should be a right — or even that we think it should be.

    Rights don’t act that way. You need no special condition to have a right, you need not be sympathetic to have a right, you need not use a right in a way we would approve of to have a right, and even if you misuse a right so severely — say by using your free speech to libel someone — that you are sanctioned for it, you still don’t lose that right.

    These keeps us from inherently absurd arguments as to what economic factors are the equivalent of the other special factors that should grant a woman the privilege of having an abortion unquestioned. It doesn’t matter how poor (or how rich) a person is, she still has the same right, whether she chooses abortion because she can’t, literally, afford to feed a family with one more addition, whether she’d rather send a child to college than to have another child whose expense would make that impossible — or if she simply would rather have enough money to complete her set of seven luxury cars so she’d have a different one for each day of the week. We might not like that last woman very much, we may regret that choice, we might refuse to have contact with her, de-friend her, or even write nasty op-eds about her, but we still have to fight to make sure she has that right.

    For that matter ‘abortion for sex selection’ turns my stomach. It is ugly, misogynistic in most cases — though I suppose some women do it to have daughters rather than sins — and I would spend hours trying to convince that woman to change her mind, and as much time writing comments condemning the practice. But I am constrained to fight just as hard for her to have the right, even knowing why and how she will use it — for precisely the reason I fought for Fred Phelps’ right to free speech.

    Now we have to — and should — use examples such as Wendy Davis’ for their emotional appeal — there is absolutely nothing wrong in appealing on an emotional level as well. But I really think we should consider beginning to lessen our focus on ‘special circumstances’ and beginning to remember and make the case for abortion as a right.

  2. Even the benighted and slow reacting behemoth of Rome, the Catholic Church, accepts termination of an ectopic pregnancy! One of my family members had to have one – and they grieved for that too. These extremists MUST be stopped :/

  3. I donated (again and again and again!) to the Wendy Davis campaign this time in honor of Melissa Conway.

    Thanks, Melissa!