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.