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Texas governor’s candidate Wendy Davis says she would back 20-week abortion ban

Davis, who shot to national prominence for filibustering a 20-week abortion ban, now says she objected only to the way the law was written

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

texas mugDALLAS (CFP) — Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, the likely Democratic nominee for governor, now says she would support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks as long as the final decision were left up to mothers and their doctors, rather than under circumstances defined by the legislature.

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis

Last June, Davis garnered national attention by leading a more than 11-hour filibuster that delayed efforts by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature to pass a bill that would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks.

That national attention helped fuel Davis’s entry into the governor’s race, where she is expected to face Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott.

But in an interview with the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News, published February 11, Davis said she could have supported the bill if it had been written differently.

“My concern, even in the way the 20-week ban was written in this particular bill, was that it didn’t give enough deference between a woman and her doctor making this difficult decision and instead tried to legislatively define what it was,” she told the paper.

She said less than 1 percent of abortions in Texas occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and most of those are in cases where the mother’s health was in danger or there were fetal abnormalities.

“I would line up with most people in Texas who would prefer that that’s not something that happens outside of those two arenas,” she said.

The bill that Davis filibustered also required abortion clinics to meet the same requirements as outpatient surgery centers and forced abortion doctors to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Davis also objected to both of those provisions.

Her filibuster ran out the clock on a special legislative session called by Governor Rick Perry. He promptly called another special session – which cost Texas taxpayers $800,000 – and the legislature passed the abortion restrictions, which are now being challenged in court.

After The Dallas Morning News reported Davis’s comments, her campaign insisted that what she said did not amount to a change in her position. But her comments lit up the message board on the newspaper’s Web site, where she was called “flip flop Barbie” and readers questioned the point of her filibuster.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Abbott has made Davis’s filibuster an issue in conservative Texas, telling a crowd of anti-abortion activists in January that Davis is “partnering with Planned Parenthood to return Texas to late term abortion on demand.”

Abbott has been defending the new abortion restrictions in court.

Davis’s latest comments on abortion come as her campaign was fighting back against questions about the details of her life story she has told during the campaign.

Davis has highlighted her past as a divorced teenage mother who lived in a trailer before working her way through Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School. But in a January 18 story, The Morning News challenged some of those details:

  • Davis divorced at 21, not 19 as she has previously said, and lived in a trailer for only a few months after the divorce with her daughter, Amber, before moving into an apartment.
  • Three years later, she married for the second time, and her husband helped pay for the remainder of her education at TCU and law school at Harvard. Together, they had a second daughter, Dru.
  • She left her second husband, Jeff Davis, the day after the last payment was made on her student loans at Harvard, according to Jeff Davis.
  • When they divorced, Jeff Davis was granted custody of both daughters, and Wendy Davis was ordered to pay $1,200 in monthly child support.

After the story ran, Davis issued a statement clarifying some of the details of her life story. However, she defended overall impression left by her previous characterizations.

“The truth is that at age 19, I was a teenage mother living alone with my daughter in a trailer and struggling to keep us afloat on my way to a divorce,” she said. “And I knew then that I was going to have to work my way up and out of that life if I was going to give my daughter a better life and a better future, and that’s what I’ve done.”

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