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Sunday’s New York Times ran an interesting story about Wendy Davis, the Democratic State Senator from Texas who is running for Governor in November. Yeah, I laughed also when I read about a Democratic trying to get that seat.

Many of you might recall that Ms. Davis gained national attention last summer when for more than eleven hours she conducted a filibuster against proposed legislation that would have resulted in the closure of most of Texas’s abortion clinics. Ultimately, she did not succeed and the legislation became law. It is now being reviewed by the courts but some damage has already been done because several clinics have already closed.

Ms. Davis made headlines last summer because she was/is one of the few politicians in the country who had the guts to stand up and take a vigorous stand on the most controversial issue of our time. And she did it in a very conservative and hostile setting. It goes without saying that her filibuster ticked off a lot of her colleagues but what started out as a quiet parliamentary maneuver suddenly blossomed into a national cause célèbre as the social media spread the story. The women’s groups (obviously) hailed her as a champion, which I suppose got to her ego a little and thus she decided to take on the big boys in the Governor’s race.

Now, Ms. Davis has written the obligatory book about her life and the Times reported that in the book she admits to having had two abortions. The first one was after experiencing an ectopic pregnancy and the second was for “medical reasons.”

I’ve been involved in politics for a long time and I’m trying to think through the benefits, if any, of “coming out” about these abortions. Granted, during her filibuster she admitted the same at some point but that information seemed to get drowned out by the image of this woman fighting the powers that be in the legislature. But now it’s a headline in the New York Times: “Texas Candidate Reveals Personal Tale of Two Abortions.”

For the pro-choicers, they’re already thrilled that she is running for higher office and the fact that she actually had two abortions cannot make them any more excited or generous towards her. They’re in it for all it’s worth right now, their energy level is as high as it can go. And, of course, no one is “for” abortion, right?

On the other side, I haven’t seen much response from the anti-abortion side. No one that I can see has actually come out and condemned the abortions. Maybe that’s because they were both for “medical” reasons and even some anti-abortion people are a little more tolerant when it comes to those abortions. Indeed, her opponent, Greg Abbott, had a pretty good statement: “The unspeakable pain of losing a child is beyond tragic for any parent. As a father, I grieve for the Davis family and for the loss of life.” I think he is playing this very well.

Abortions for medical reasons, according to national polls, are more acceptable than the “convenience” abortions, as the anti-abortion crowd calls them. And Mr. Abbott’s careful response shows he is very savvy politically. And the irony would be if Ms. Davis’ revelation actually helped her opponent who could have blasted her but instead chose the compassionate response. This should be an interesting last two months of this campaign!

Abortion is legal – if you don’t like it, amend the Constitution.

Abortion is not wrong.

Abortion can be sad.

Abortion can be a difficult choice – but not always.

Abortion is a form of killing in that there is something alive in her body and after the abortion it is not alive.

Abortion doctors go to their office every day thinking they are helping women and knowing that they could be killed in an instant. Worse, they may think they are safe going to a church or a social function, but they are not.

Abortions in this country are decreasing.

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the world but, because it is surgery, there is always the possibility that a woman could be harmed or even die.

Abortions cost almost the same as they did when abortion was legalized in 1973.

Abortion doctors are not getting rich and many clinics are closing because the number of patients is decreasing.

Abortion doctors have their personal limits in terms of how far in the pregnancy they will perform the abortion.

Abortion clinic staff believe they are helping woman and they also can be killed or maimed in an instant.

Abortion protestors mean well in that they truly believe they are “saving a life” and they have a right to express those views publicly.

Abortion clinics are for the most part clean and safe but there are some abortion clinics that should be shut down. There are also some abortion doctors who should have their licenses revoked.

Abortion protestors can be particularly ugly to women who are entering clinics but many of them just stand outside of a clinic and pray quietly.

Abortion can be prevented by abstinence, birth control and adoption.

Abortion advocates need to be more candid about the abortion procedure and anti-abortion advocates need to stop exaggerating the facts.

Abortion clinic counselors have different approaches to how much counseling a woman should get.

Regular readers of my award-winning column know that for many years I have been saying that the term “choice” does not cut it anymore. I’ve argued that the term does not resonate with people anymore, especially the younger generation that. And it has been co-opted by numerous banks, telephone companies and the like. Everyone has climbed on the “choice” bandwagon and supporters of legal abortion have suffered as a consequence.

Well, there is finally some movement on this end. But it’s the usual good news, bad news scenario.

According to the New York Times, the term “pro-choice” has “fallen from favor, a victim of changed times and generational preferences,” which is exactly what I’ve been saying. ”This is particularly true of a generation of women who have lived with legal abortion since they were born.” The change “is something that we have been talking about for several years,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood. “I just think the ‘pro-choice’ language doesn’t really resonate particularly with a lot of young women voters. We’re really trying to focus on, what are the real things you’re going to lose? Sometimes that’s rights. Sometimes that’s economic or access to health care for you or for your kids.” No pithy phrase has yet to replace “pro-choice” but, according to the article, activists are considering “women’s health” and “economic security.”

And that is the bad news.

For about forty years, the most controversial issue of our time has been about whether or not ABORTION should be legal. Numerous groups have been formed for opponents and proponents of abortion rights. Supreme Court decisions, books, movies, and endless columns and opinion pieces have been devoted to ABORTION. But the groups that advocate for this right have for too long cloaked their message under the label “pro-choice.” ABORTION has been this big dead elephant in the middle of the room and our side has run away from it. This has confused or at least failed to influence a new generation to the point where we continue to lose support for the basic right. Not to mention the endless attacks – many successful – on access to this right.

And what is the result of our not talking about ABORTION? It leaves a pretty big vacuum in the public discourse that has been successfully filled by opponents of the procedure. Thus, there remains today a very negative stigma about abortion – and the women who receive them.

So, while I am thrilled that our friends are getting ready to ditch the term “pro-choice,” it looks like they are still not ready to talk about the real issue: ABORTION. And that will only help perpetuate the abortion stigma. And that plain sucks.

In the past, I have made reference to a very helpful website named http://www.abortion.com. I do some consulting for the owners of that site, which is an Internet directory of abortion clinics across the country. Owners pay a monthly fee to be listed, just like the Yellow Pages.

The site has been around for a good ten years, if not more and, over the last few years, I’ve watched as some of the original clinics on the list have dropped off the site. One reason is that the number of abortions is declining (for whatever reason) and these offices are businesses so if they do not have the requisite number of patients to pay their expenses, they try to cut back on the amount of money they are spending. Some just close altogether.

Then there are the clinics that have closed because their state legislature has enacted restrictive regulations (under the totally ridiculous guise of “ensuring the safety of women”) that have forced them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep their doors open. In Texas alone, I count at least eight clinics that have shut their doors in the last year because of their restrictive laws.

Now, the anti-abortion folks are no doubt applauding these developments. Indeed, I subscribe to LIFENEWS, an anti-abortion electronic newsletter, and every time a clinic closes they shout to the mountain tops (and always give credit to the anti-abortion movement) that another clinic has closed. And the assumption is that when a clinic closes, there are fewer abortions. More babies are saved! Praise the Lord!

Out of curiosity, I spent the last two weeks talking to the owners of those remaining clinics. And guess what’s happening, folks? The remaining clinics in Texas are being – in the words of one doctor – “swamped” with patients. Hmmmm, now ain’t that interesting?

Yep, several clinic doctors and/or owners told me that the number of patients they are seeing has increased since the other clinics shut their doors. And it stands to reason. That’s because the bottom line is that if a woman has an unwanted pregnancy and does not want to carry it to term, then she will seek an abortion. And no matter where she lives, she will get it.

The number of abortion facilities has decreased, no doubt about it, but the ones that are remaining – especially in rural areas like Texas – are seeing the number of abortion patients increase. They also report that more patients are coming from longer distances.

Of course, the anti-abortion advocates – who express their concern about the “safety of women seeking abortions” – don’t give a rat’s ass if a woman has to travel a few extra hundred miles to get to that clinic in western Texas. Who cares if she has to miss two days of work, travel across a state by herself on a bus, pay for someone to watch her kids?

The real strategy is to make it financially impossible for them to get an abortion but at least in Texas I’m not sure the strategy is working. And the irony is that these oh-so-compassionate anti-abortion folks are making it even more dangerous and expensive for women to obtain a legal abortion.


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