Back in 1968, Andy Warhol observed that everybody “will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” The latest recipient of 15 minutes of fame is Texas State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), being lauded as gubernatorial timber (and perhaps even more) for her “epic” 1 eleven-hour filibuster that prevented the Texas Senate from enacting a ban on abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy (that is, the first time it came up for a vote; the bill was subsequently passed, and signed into law by Governor Rick Perry on July 18).
Yes, the “remarkable” state senator had fought to keep abortion after the fifth month of pregnancy legal.
At five months, an unborn child has every organ a human being is meant to have. His heart has been beating for 17 weeks, his brain waves detectable for 14. He has eyelids and fingerprints. He has a skeleton. He can turn his head. He can feel pain.
But you won’t hear any of this from those who “watched in awe” as Wendy Davis sought to keep second and third-trimester abortion legal in a state noted “for redneck and red state politics.”2 Neither will you hear that Senator Davis admitted she didn’t know much about Kermit Gosnell3, the Philadelphia abortion “doctor” convicted of murdering newborns this past May and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.
One of the reasons that Texas was debating this bill was because many states have given abortionists free passes for so long someone like Gosnell thought he could kill newborn babies (and at least one woman) with impunity. Sure, the abortion establishment would like you to believe that Kermit Gosnell was an outlier—the general media blackout on his trial attests to that—but the fact is what Gosnell was doing was not fundamentally different from what many late-term abortionists are doing across America (see, for instance, Jillian Kay Melchior’s expose, “Abortion’s Underside,” National Review Online, May 8).
The Texas bill that Wendy Davis “courageously” filibustered banned abortion after 20 weeks, asserting the state’s compelling interest in protecting fetuses from pain. It also stipulated that abortion clinics be held to the same standard to which other medical centers that perform ambulatory surgery are held, and that abortionists have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. Planned Parenthood, Barack Obama, and the abortion establishment would have us believe that Wendy Davis was defending women’s rights. But don’t women undergoing abortion have the same “right” to safety as people who have other surgical procedures? Davis claims the majority of Texas abortion clinics couldn’t meet that standard. Her solution? Throw out the standard.
One might take Wendy Davis seriously if she would tell us why she thinks it is okay for abortion clinics to offer substandard care. And why she thinks it is okay for abortionists to crush the skulls of fully formed fetuses in the fifth month of pregnancy, or dismember them in utero, pulling out the pieces one by one. The following account is from a former abortionist who testified before Congress this past spring:
A second trimester D&E abortion is a blind procedure. The baby can be in any orientation or position inside the uterus. Picture yourself reaching in with the Sopher clamp and grasping anything you can. At twenty-four weeks gestation, the uterus is thin and soft so be careful not to perforate or puncture the walls. Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard—really hard. You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about six inches long. Reach in again and grasp whatever you can. Set the jaw and pull really hard once again and out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.
The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby’s head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a large plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You will know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see white gelatinous material coming through the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. Many times a little face will come out and stare back at you.
But Davis, of course, won’t address any of this. Meanwhile, we are expected to stand in awe of her “epic filibuster”—“without a break to eat or go to the toilet, all while wearing pink trainers”4 —of a bill whose express purpose was to protect women and children.
Perhaps “the embattled pro-choice movement has a new national icon.”5 When you get a puff piece in Vogue, you clearly must be on the fast track.6 And the pro-abortion establishment certainly hopes she stays on the fast track and runs for governor. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards (whose late mother, Ann Richards, was the last Democratic governor of Texas) even proclaimed Davis “the kind of woman that my mother was always nurturing . . .”7 Britain’s Guardian was more to the point: Davis “must run” for the Texas governorship, wrote James McAuley, to maintain “the crucial shift in public discourse” as “it will now be impossible to resume any discussion of women’s health without women themselves at the center of the conversation.”8
Well, not all women. Wendy Davis, as a 19-year-old single mother living in a trailer park, yes. Sarah Palin, as a mother of a son with Down’s syndrome, no. The late Geraldine Ferraro, as a Catholic Democratic representative ready to diss her church over abortion, yes. The late Lindy Boggs, as a Catholic Democrat who voted for the Hyde Amendment in Congress, no.9 Remember Marilyn Lloyd (D-Tenn) and Mary Rose Oaker (D-Ohio)? No? Well, possibly that’s because they, like Lindy Boggs, were pro-life female Democrats in the House. The “women’s movement,” which arrogates the claim to speak urbi et orbi for womanhood, includes only certain women.
Still, The Guardian has a point. With a supine press behind them, the Wendy Davises of the world can change, i.e., distort the “conversation,” simply by ignoring key, relevant facts. To avoid such trivialization of political discourse means demanding politicians address those facts relevant to their positions, even when inconvenient, even when the politician would rather plead (culpable) ignorance, as Davis did about Kermit Gosnell. To take Wendy Davis seriously as a politician and a woman means holding her feet to the fire of facts—about tiny human beings who feel pain, and about women whose safety is threatened by substandard abortion practices—regardless of whether she’s sporting pumps or pink sneakers.
1. Tom Dart, “Wendy Davis’s Remarkable Filibuster to Deny Passage of Abortion Bill,” The Guardian, June 26, 2013, available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/26/texas-senator-wendy-davis-abortion-bill-speech (all sites accessed August 25, 2013 from 1215-1300 GMT).
2. Karen Pickering, “From Texas to Australia, We Can’t Go Backwards on Abortion,” The Guardian, July 24, 2013, available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/25/abortion-australia-texas-abbott . Pickering’s screed is directed primarily at Australia, where parliamentary elections take place in September 2013. She repeatedly claims that “most [people] support a woman’s right to choose,” without taking any account of the considerable data that most do not support the kinds of abortions at the gestational stages that Wendy Davis defended.
3. John McCormack, “Wendy Davis: ‘I Don’t Know What Happened in the Gosnell Case,’” The Weekly Standard, August 5, 2013, available at: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/wendy-davis-i-dont-know-what-happened-gosnell-case_742625.html . In June, John McCormack’s similar question regarding passage of HR 1797 precipitated Nancy Pelosi’s (in)famous comment that, for her, abortion was “sacred ground.” See John Grondelski, “Nancy Pelosi and John McCormack,” at http://humanlifereview.net/index.php/in-the-news/235-nancy-pe losi-and-john-mccormack .
4. Shiv Malik, “Wendy Davis: From Orange Juice Seller to Abortion Bill Breaker,” The Guardian, June 26, 2013, available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/26/wendy-davis-texas-state-senator
5. Tom Dart, cited above.
6. Heidi Mitchell, “Stand and Deliver: After Her 12-Hour Filibuster, How Far Will Texas Senator Wendy Davis Run?” Vogue Daily, August 16, 2013, available at: http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/stand-and-deliver-texas-senator-wendy-davis/#1 . The Vogue piece begins with a photograph of Davis in the State Capitol, “in a Carolina Herrera dress and Reed Krakoff pumps.” One can imagine the outrage that would have ensued if the Weekly Standard, which asked her to explain the difference between what Kermit Gosnell did and what the bill she opposed banned, had added her lack of a coherent response was given “in a Carolina Herrera dress and Reed Krakoff pumps.” But I guess it depends who holds those famous binders ….. [Incidentally, Vogue now has to explain its 2012 puff piece on Syrian dictator Assad’s wife – see Max Fisher, “The Only Remaining Online Copy of Vogue’s Asma al-Assad Profile,” at http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/01/the-only-remaining-online-copy-of-vogues-asma-al-assad-profile/250753/, for which now Vogue author Joan Beck claims to have been “duped” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/vogue-joan-juliet-buck-assad-duped-me_n_1718656.html)].
7. Mitchell, cited above.
8. James McAuley, “Why Wendy Davis Must Run for Texas Governor in 2014,” The Guardian, August 13, 2013, available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/13/wendy-davis-must-run-texas-governor
9. Marc Thiessen points out that Boggs was considered as a possible vice presidential running mate to Walter Mondale in 1984, but believed she was passed over in favor of Geraldine Ferraro because she was pro-life: “What the Post Left Out about Lindy Boggs,” July 30, 2013, available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2013/07/30/what-the-post-left-out-about-lindy-boggs/
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John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) is former associate dean of the School ofTheology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey (USA).