When Texas State senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis made the choice to describe in vivid detail the events leading to her terminating a pregnancy 17 years ago, one imagines she knew that even adding a personal touch to a controversial issue would not preclude her from persecution from those who are staunchly anti-abortion. Such is life for a politician, particularly one running for office in a state currently soiled with far too many men in power that actively seek to limit the reproductive rights of women. For that reason, that a woman of her stature dared not only to own her abortion, but also discuss it in a nuanced way on national television, is an important moment in this nation’s history.
Unfortunately, Sen. Davis has not been given the courtesy of respect from conservative media and various Republicans, who have gone on the attack. The right-leaning media outlet The National Review deemed Davis’ story to be “convenient” and “unverifiable.” One writer went so far as as to say that the Davis campaign did not “respond to questions about whether Davis’ highly unusual abortions were matched by any medical evidence, doctor statements, or public verification from her ex-husband or two daughters.” Suggins went on to conclude, “Maybe she had the abortion, maybe she didn’t. Maybe her reasons were as compelling as she claims. But the reasons Davis gives for having had her abortions are unproven and statistically unlikely.”
This is a commonly-employed tactic of the conservative media complex: Instead of debating an issue head on, let us instead turn it into a conspiracy – playing mock detective instead of debating the issue at hand in a meaningful way.
In response to the speculation, Davis told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, “My family would give anything for this not to be a true story in our lives. We would give anything for that.”
It’s one thing to disagree with someone’s rationale for getting an abortion, another to suggest they faked a story for the sake of political interests. In a since-deleted tweet, Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak described Davis’ memoir and subsequent interviews centered on the reveal as “sickening” and “subhuman.” What’s sickening about all of this is that the backlash is reminiscent of the very Neanderthal attitudes about abortion and a woman’s right to choose that sparked the famed filibuster speech Davis gave on the Texas Senate floor one year ago.
Interestingly enough, in the essay “Wendy Davis and The ‘Good Abortion’ Myth,” The Daily Beast’s Emily Shire rightly points out that Davis’ rationale for abortion is more or less the most acceptable narrative that is for abortion there is: medical reasons. However, Wendy Davis has already been greeted with “Abortion Barbie” posters across different parts of the country and even her “good abortion” story hasn’t stopped that sick characterization. If anything, the criticism has only intensified.
Because these men – these vile, sexist, unsympathetic, misogynist men, clinging on to their patriarchal privilege for dear life – do not respect women. They don’t care to know what it’s like to be met with a difficult choice about whether or not to complete a pregnancy for whatever reason be it medical, economical, or simply – gasp – not wanting to be a mother – nor are they interested in hearing women explain themselves.
I’m not convinced that Wendy Davis will win her race this November. It remains to be seen if 2014 is the year the purported Democratic sleeping giant in Texas awakens. What I am certain of, though, is that Wendy Davis is a far better person and leader than the bulk of her critics in Texas. And personally, I’d much rather have “Abortion Barbie” over “generic male jackass” any day.