Texas senator Wendy Davis’ new memoir, Forgetting To Be Afraid, was released to the general public this past Tuesday. In the book, the now famous senator reveals that she’s had two abortions in her lifetime. Davis and her then-husband decided to terminate one pregnancy 17 years ago after learning that, if the baby survived, she would most likely be in a permanent vegetative state. The baby, named Tate, was developing with a severe brain abnormality. Davis characterized the decision as "the most loving thing that [they] could do for [their] daughter" because they believed that the baby was suffering. In the memoir, Davis also provides details about a second abortion, one that she’s previously talked about in public. This abortion, unlike her 1997 abortion, was medically necessary – the pregnancy was ectopic and could not be carried to term.
The news about Davis’ memoir broke late last week, when a local new source, the San Antonio Express, published an article covering Davis’ disclosure in her memoir. After receiving an advance copy of Forgetting to Be Afraid, the Express wrote an article promoting the book and discussing Davis' reaction to her two abortion procedures. Shortly after this article was published, media outlets rushed to ask her gubernatorial opponent, anti-choice Republican Gregg Abbott, about his response to her revelation.
Senator Davis isn’t the first politician to share her abortion story. In 2011, during a heated House debate on defunding Planned Parenthood, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) disclosed that she’d had an abortion. Like Davis, Speier’s abortion was medically necessary. And, in 2013, Nevada state representative Lucy Flores revealed that she had an abortion at age 16 because she wasn’t ready to parent a child. Flores’ abortion story received a great deal of attention earlier this year when she retold her story in an interview with MSNBC. Flores, who is running for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada, has a record of presenting herself as an honest and open book. She often shares personal aspects of her life story with the public – her abortion experience is simply one such story that she shares.
The honesty and bravery of these politicians should be acknowledged and commended. Abortion stigma, a potent force in our culture, shames women and encourages them to keep silent about their abortion experiences. Having an abortion is not a shameful act. Abortions are not rare occurrences. One in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Imagine living in a culture that didn’t shame women for the personal and private decisions they make regarding their bodies. In that culture, sharing an abortion story would no longer be considered an act of bravery – it would simply be considered storytelling.