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Guest post: why I'm in awe of Senator Wendy Davis

(73 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 26-Jun-13 14:45:58

Last night, US Senator Wendy Davis spoke in the Texas Senate for 11 hours straight in order to prevent a law which would seriously limit Texan women's access to abortion.

In today's guest post, American-born, UK-based film critic and journalist Karen Krizanovich reflects on the achievements of a remarkable woman - "a Democrat pointed to the future".

Share your thoughts on this thread, and if you blog on this issue, don't forget to post your URLs.

'As an American woman who has needed the services Texas state senator Wendy Davis was fighting to retain - and on behalf of all the women who will still be able to access safe and legal abortion if they need it - I'd like to say thank you, Senator, for fighting and winning this battle.

Americans love freedom. Freedom is one of their favourite subjects - and yet, as Sen. Davis' filibuster last night reminded us, in the Land Of The Free, abortion has always been a struggle. And they say Americans can't do irony.

Texas is a Republican state, and its political system is notorious for back-room deals and vested interest. In a senate packed with old money patriarchs, Sen. Wendy Davis is a Democrat pointed to the future.

Raised by a single mother and working from the age of 14, Davis is no stranger to 'normal' life as it is lived. Pregnant at 19, she raised her first daughter in what was effectively a caravan park. Spurred by a fierce determination to improve her lot and by a powerful belief in justice, she graduated first in her community college class, and went on to study law at Harvard.

Last night, in a tradition dating back to Ancient Greece, Davis got on her feet in the Texas state senate, and held the floor for almost 11 hours in order to stymie an anti-abortion vote. Without leaning, eating, drinking or a loo break (the rules) Davis stayed on her feet - only to have pandemonium erupt over whether she'd done it right, long enough, or legally.

Finally, in the wee hours, it was confirmed that Davis had indeed stood the test of time to deny the passing of SB5, the Omnibus Abortion Bill, which would have effectively closed 80% of currently operating abortion clinics in the state with the second highest population in the US.

The Twitterverse exploded, taking her followers from a modest 1200 to a global-icon-level 60,000. Her final tweet from @WendyDavisTexas: "Thanks to the powerful voices of thousands of Texans, #SB5 is dead. An incredible victory for Texas women and those who love them."

There speaks not only a true American, but also a woman who understands that freedom in America is a tricky thing indeed.

Yes, women in the most powerful country in the world are still battling for this basic freedom. I remember a bumper sticker I saw on a car back home which read, "Against abortion? Don't have one." The year was 1973 - and yet here we are again.'

Karen Krizanovich can be found over here - do check out her blog.

edam Fri 28-Jun-13 20:38:58

agree, great post Annie.

AnnieLobeseder Fri 28-Jun-13 12:14:25


TheOneWithTheHair Fri 28-Jun-13 09:23:14

Annie that's a fantastic post! <applauds>

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 28-Jun-13 08:27:14

I think that's probably why the blogger has 'irony' in the next bit!

Pendeen Fri 28-Jun-13 00:57:52

"Americans love freedom"

That is quite funny, but rather misguided.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 22:48:51

<applauds Annie>

AnnieLobeseder Thu 27-Jun-13 22:29:47

Sephy- don't think anyone would disagree with you that ideally, there would be no unwanted pregnancies - each and every one would be conceived with the full intention of conceiving, and in love. And that in addition to being wanted, all pregnancies would be healthy, viable, and pose no risk to the mother's health. In such a world, there would be no need for abortion.

However, the realities are:
Women are sometimes raped
Contraceptives sometimes fail
Foetuses are sometimes not healthy
A continuing pregnancy will sometimes damage a woman's physical or mental health.

For all these reasons and more, abortion must remain available.

No-one can know or judge except the pregnant woman whether her life would be changed in a way which is unacceptable to her by the arrival of a baby. There are already too many children in the world. Pregnancy and childbirth is not easy nor risk-free so "oh, just have the baby adopted" is no ideal solution. And no-one should have parenthood forced upon them, for the sake of the child as much as the adult.

At the end of the day, every woman deserves complete autonomy over what happens to her body. You give the examples of slavery and abuse in comparison to abortion. And I agree that in all three cases, damage is done to the second party. However, here is where your argument falls down; the slave owner and the abuser maintain their bodily autonomy. They are not at risk, they are not fundamentally changed - physically, mentally, financially - by the act of owning a slave or being abusive. The pregnant women is at risk. And IMO, her right to decide to mitigate that risk by ending that pregnancy remains her absolute right.

The very vast majority of abortions occur when the foetus is still just a bundle of cells with no concious thought, no sensations, no life beyond its very basic definition. They lose nothing except the potential of what they would become, same as every unfertilised egg and sperm, and the millions of fertilised eggs which are spontaneously aborted (around 1/3 of all fertilisation events) every year. The real live thinking, breathing, reasoning, socially and economically active, thriving adult woman stands to lose so much more. The foetus really is just a bunch of cells, albeit with great potential. The woman, however, is already infinitely more than just the incubator of those cells.

edam Thu 27-Jun-13 22:01:55

I think the 'if you don't like abortion, don't have one' line is entirely valid. It's a direct, simple and clear expression of the belief that each of us is in charge of our own bodies. It's not down to me to stop you doing whatever the hell you like, or your Mum, or your MP, or your priest. I happen not to be terribly keen on tattoos or piercing, but it's no business of mine to stop anyone else having these things if they wish.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Thu 27-Jun-13 21:52:17

grin at KKK.

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Thu 27-Jun-13 21:45:48

Never mind a web chat, Nicholas Parsons needs to get her on Just a Minute pronto

FamiliesShareGerms Thu 27-Jun-13 20:20:36

What a truly inspiring woman. Pllleeeeeaaassse can you get her on for a web chat?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 19:53:33

But you're anti these choices. Whereas none of us is pro-abortion.

They're not parallels.

I appreciate you coming back to discuss it, but I do honestly believe what I'm saying here, I'm not just nit-picking.

Sephy Thu 27-Jun-13 19:50:31

Amanda and MRD and others - thanks. I can see that you're right that some will disagree that one thing necessarily implies the other, so accept what you've said about the 'therefore' Amanda, and also I can see that 'people in favour of abortion' is kind of lazy, maybe misleading shorthand, so apologies for that too. It should have been more like people in favour of having abortion available as a choice.

I don't agree with Scone that my position should be termed anti-choice though, any more than the idea that the other view should be called pro-abortion though - I am just as in favour of wider aspects of choice (e.g. that a woman should have complete choice over if and when she has sex, over what kind of contraception should be used etc) but not the particular option of being able to choose an abortion, just as Scone is in favour of the wider aspects of life, without sharing the particular view that the right of an embryo/foetus/unborn child to life trumps other rights.

But anyway, I'm sorry for taking the conversation a bit off topic, and thanks again for sensible and measured reactions to my post too.

SconeRhymesWithGone Thu 27-Jun-13 16:23:40

The semantics of the debate are important as several people have noted. Many of the anti-choice people in the US like to call us pro-choice folk pro-abortion. I am not pro-abortion; I am pro-choice. I also consider myself pro-life in the wide sense of that term (quality of life, health care for all, eradication of poverty). I think anti-choice and pro-choice are the most accurate terms and those are the ones I use most often.

daisyhead Thu 27-Jun-13 15:43:28

Bravo Wendy Davis! I agree with MmeLindor - would be great to have a web chat when she has recovered from her heroic stand, literally, for women.

Tee2072 Thu 27-Jun-13 15:22:24

I didn't blog specifically about Wendy, so HQ, you may need to delete this.

But there was lots of stuff that happened this month with the US. The UK and NI

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Thu 27-Jun-13 13:37:36

Yes, and of course in the Republic of Ireland, meaning that women who travel for a termination often end up having to get a ferry to Liverpool.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 13:36:39

Someone mentioned in, possibly on the other thread. sad

Tee2072 Thu 27-Jun-13 13:36:39

Sorry, I meant to add:

Marie Stopes has opened a clinic here anyway. It has protesters every day:

Tee2072 Thu 27-Jun-13 13:35:18

I'm reading all of this, and it was an amazing thing, but all I can think is; let's not forget it's not legal in all of the UK.

Abortion is still very much illegal in Northern Ireland.

Everyone seems to forget that...

PicardyThird Thu 27-Jun-13 13:17:14

Well said, MRD and Amanda. My sentiments exactly. I think we need to ensure and protect women's access to safe and legal terminations, but that is not the same thing as being someone who 'supports abortion'.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 13:14:47

Well put.

With cross-posting from the other thread, I am pro-life. Just not anti-abortion.

I'm wondering - does anyone know how this situation will affect women who find out they or the foetus they're carrying is likely to die if the pregnancy continues? I'm not seeing how 'pro-life' it can be to make things harder for them, even if you are anti-abortion in other circumstances.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Thu 27-Jun-13 12:56:52

Yes Yes MRD. I find the constant 'pro-abortion' rhetoric very offensive. I am pro-the-right-to-choose-to-have-a-safe-and-legal-abortion.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 27-Jun-13 12:52:02

sephy, I would find it easier to sympathise if you hadn't just characterised people who don't agree with you as 'people who are in favour of abortion'.

That makes me feel you are expecting special pleading for your point of view, while quite happy to twist your characterisation of other people's views to suit your own agenda. That's not really fair, IMO.

I think 'don't like abortion - don't have one' is a limited statement, just like 'don't like slavery - don't have a slave'. I don't think it's quite as offensive as calling people who want abortion to be an option for women 'in favour of abortion'.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Thu 27-Jun-13 12:38:24

Sephy - I just want to point out that the 'therefore' in your argument isn't automatic. I believe that life (in some form) begins at conception. I also wish I lived in a world where every pregnancy was a viable and wanted pregnancy. It would be lovely if no women ever needed or wanted an abortion. But we don't live in that world, and I believe that the rights of the already born trump those of the unborn and we don't get to hold women hostage to a pregnancy that they do not want to continue. So I believe that life begins at conception, but I am also pro-choice.

Senator Davis did an amazing thing for women's rights. I followed some of it on Twitter before I had to go to bed. I find the US approach to abortion, and many women's issues, increasingly troubling. Avoidance of a proper debate on the issues by pretending something is just a health measure when it is actually a stealth reduction in women's rights is incredibly scary and dangerous.

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