Davis back in spotlight over 20-week abortion ban, medical marijuana


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE


Posted on February 12, 2014 at 7:19 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 12 at 7:22 PM

AUSTIN -- In Houston a day after suggesting to a Dallas Morning News editorial board that she may support some restrictions on abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) said those restrictions shouldn't be determined by lawmakers.

"These are decisions that should be left not for a legislature to decide, but for a doctor and a woman who's making this tough decision to decide," Davis told KVUE's sister station KHOU on Wednesday.
A ban on abortions performed after 20 weeks was part of a sweeping anti-abortion bill Davis rocketed to fame by filibustering last June. One month later, the 83rd Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2. In addition to the 20-week ban, the law required abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where abortions are performed, significantly altered requirements for administering abortion inducing drugs, and required abortion clinics comply with the facility specifications of ambulatory surgical centers.
Many were taken by surprise at Davis' seeming openness to some restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks. Davis said she would have preferred to take up the 20-week ban separately, and was most concerned by parts of the bill -- such as requiring those performing abortions to obtain nearby hospital admitting privileges -- which abortion providers warned would ultimately shutter dozens of clinics across the state. Davis emphasized that her position hasn't changed.
"I want to be clear about this. I respect and trust women and their doctors to make these decisions," said Davis. "In Texas, the occurrence of abortion after 20 weeks is very rare. It's just barely over half of a percentage point, and it's happening in instances primarily where women are facing dramatic health care decisions for themselves and also, unfortunately, having discovered a fetal abnormality that they must confront."
"I don't think the pro-life community is going to be fooled by this," said Texas Alliance for Life executive director Joe Pojman. "Many times in the past we've seen pro-abortion candidates try to hide their true positions and make them more marketable to voters. I don't think it's going to work in the pro-life community."
Pojman argues the fractional percentage of abortions which are performed after twenty weeks in Texas makes the law no less important for proponents. He contends the one half of one percent to which Davis referred roughly equates to 300 abortions in Texas each year. 
"To minimize 300 human lives to me sounds very callous," said Pojman. "The ban that she said she would support is really no ban at all. What she said she will support is a ban, but it has to allow the woman and her physician to make this decision. Well that doesn't leave any room for a law that protects unborn babies from the tragic decision of abortion."
Perceptions seem unchanged on the other side of the issues as well.
"I think if you really look at her statements it's clear that Wendy Davis supports this decision remaining between the patient and the physician to be the best decision for the individual without the interference of politicians," said Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.
"It is clear that Wendy Davis is a champion of reproductive rights. From the summer that made that very clear," said Busby, who turned the focus to Davis' Republican opponent. "It's also very clear that Greg Abbott is not. He has fought hard to take away our reproductive rights, including taking away our right to contraception under the Affordable Care Act."
Davis also turned heads with her personal support for medical marijuana, which she qualified by saying Texas voters should be allowed to weigh in before any changes are made to the current legal structure.
Texas NORML activist Vincent Lopez has battled crippling muscular dystrophy for more than 20 years, and says marijuana is the only drug that alleviates his constant pain without leaving him nauseous and unable to eat. Lopez credits recent legalization of marijuana in the states of Colorado and Washington with making the idea more palatable to leaders nationwide, and says Davis' support of medical marijuana gives him hope.
"When I think people see the reality of these life and death issues, it makes them more aware of how serious the medical need is, and it makes them very aware of the medicinal potentials of cannabis," said Lopez.
It's more for voters to mull over as the 2014 election season charges on.

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