Wendy Davis open to supporting 20-week abortion ban

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis is escorted into the Texas state capitol building after leading a rally in support of Texas women's right to reproductive decisions on July 1, 2013 in Austin, Texas. Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Wendy Davis, the likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Texas, told the Dallas Morning News that she could have supported her state’s controversial 20-week abortion ban, had the law allowed for more exemptions. Davis gained nationwide notoriety last year after staging a 13-hour filibuster in the state Senate, in an attempt to fight a package of abortion regulations that included the 20-week ban.  

“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,” Davis told the newspaper.

She noted that abortions after 20 weeks are rare and are usually obtained by women facing serious health risks or in cases of 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.

Davis managed to block the Texas the abortion restrictions last June, but state lawmakers reintroduced the legislation in another session, and Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, signed the rules into law in July. Other parts of the legislation -- a rule that restricts how doctors administer abortion-inducing drugs, and a rule that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals -- are currently under court review.

Davis called the 20-week ban the “least objectionable” of the abortion-related rules passed in Texas last year.

“I would have and could have voted to allow that to go through, if I felt like we had tightly defined the ability for a woman and a doctor to be making this decision together and not have the legislature get too deep in the weeds of how we would describe when that was appropriate,” she said.

At least 11 other states in addition to Texas have bans on abortions after 20 weeks, even though the Supreme Court has upheld a woman’s constitutionally protected right to an abortion before a fetus is “viable” outside of the womb. Viability is generally considered to start at 24 weeks into a pregnancy. The Supreme Court last month refused to let Arizona revive its 20-week abortion ban, which was struck down by a lower court, but the ruling didn’t affect other state laws.

By supporting a version of the 20-week ban, Davis is likely trying to stake out broader support in  her conservative state. After her summer filibuster, Davis turned her moment in the spotlight into a fundraising boon, and abortion rights activists pointed to her as an example of how politicians can benefit from backing reproductive rights.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told CBS News in a statement that Davis is still a champion for women. 

"Her historic filibuster put anti-choice politicians in Texas, and across the country, on notice that we're not going to let decision about our health care be a political football," Hogue said. "We believe that decisions around abortion care should be made between a woman and her doctor, and not by politicians. Electing Wendy Davis as the next governor of Texas will help advance this cause."

Still, the governor's mansion will be an uphill climb for Davis, should she win the Democratic nomination: Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. Gov. Rick Perry isn’t seeking re-election, but  Davis will nevertheless face a tough race against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Davis also staked out positions on two other controversial issues -- gun control and marijuana reform -- that align her with her Republican rivals.

She told the Morning News that she supports Perry’s recent suggestion that he would support decriminalizing marijuana possession. “I do believe that Gov. Perry’s approach is a reasonable approach, that we as a state need to think about the cost of that incarceration and, obviously, the cost to the taxpayers as a consequence of it, and whether we’re really solving any problem for the state by virtue of incarcerations for small amounts of marijuana possession,” Davis said.

Meanwhile, Davis told the Associated Press that -- like Abbott -- she supports an “open carry” law that would allow people with concealed handgun licenses to wear a pistol on their hip. That position puts Davis at odds with other Democrats in her party. 

Comments