Splitting Hairs on Abortion Restrictions

Wendy Davis, as we all know, came to national recognition as the result of a 13-hour-filibuster against a sweeping new abortion bill. In other words, she supports reproductive rights. Since June, however, she's infuriated the pro-life right several times, over and above the general degree of fury they feel towards her, by distancing herself from that stance, or trying to do so. When she mentioned her filibuster during her announcement that she would run for governor this year, she meant the 2011 mini-filibuster, which was about education funding. In November, she said that she herself is "pro-life," because she cares about the lives of children and women.

And yesterday she told the Dallas Morning News's editorial board that she's generally opposed to abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, and might support a ban on them, although a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of gestation was a key part of the bill she filibustered:

“I would line up with most people in Texas who would prefer that that’s not something that happens outside of those two arenas,” Davis said.

But the Democrat said the state’s new abortion law didn’t give priority to women in those circumstances. The law allows for exceptions for fetal abnormalities and a threat to the woman’s life, but Davis said those didn’t go far enough.

“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 said.

Davis's critics see this as transparent political posturing. I would argue that although there are plenty of examples of political posturing from Davis (as from most politicians), these comments are consistent enough. Three reasons that Davis deserves the benefit of the doubt, after the jump. 

Shaken and Stirred

The point of the January 13 town hall meeting was to organize the locals. And since the locale was a smallish town in Texas—Azle, population roughly 11,000, just far enough from Fort Worth that it doesn’t quite feel like a suburb—that meant the first task, for the handful of fracking critics who led the meeting, was to gently address any reservations attendees may have had about the purpose of the gathering.

Evolution of the Specious

The final shot of the last battle of the Great Texas Textbook War has been fired. The clash did not end in a blaze of glory, exactly, more like a flurry of memos. Still, the occasion deserves to be marked. What happened was this: three experts, selected by the State Board of Education, struck down an attempt to insert doubt about evolution into a high school biology textbook, thereby preventing creationists from having any voice in how the origin of life is presented in its pages. 

The Urge to Purge

As stacks and stacks of money pile up in the Republican primary, and GOP candidates face an excrutiating election on March 4, the question of the moment is: Who's in charge of the Republican party? The answer could not be worse: it's Michael Quinn Sullivan.

A Long and Bitter Fight

On Mockingbird Lane, just four blocks east of Central Expressway, in Dallas, is an unremarkable row of businesses that includes a Mobil 1 Lube Express and a Walgreens. In February 1970, however, 5734 E. Mockingbird Lane marked the spot of a popular pizza joint called Colombo’s, now long gone, where a homeless pregnant woman named Norma McCorvey first met two young lawyers, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington.

Another Attack on Joe Straus

Joe Straus's enemies are out in force once again, trying to make a mountain out of a molehill -- namely, the issue of diverting gasoline tax revenue to other uses. Let me state unequivocally that diversions are a phony issue. They are not an affront to transparency. The only diversion in the state budget that matters is the use of gasoline taxes to pay for the cost of operating the Texas Department of Public Safety, which amounts to a billion dollars every biennium, more or less. Yes, this is a diversion, but a necessary one. If budget writers did not employ the diversion, they would not have the funding to be able to fully fund DPS, and highway safety would suffer.

A Generation of Republican Leadership

In a column by the Statesman's Ken Herman last week, three "unnamed" Republican sources who have been in state government for a collective 47 years admitted to him that "a generation of Republican rule" has left Texas in "kind of a mess." Herman identified their concerns: chronically underfunded schools; crippling water shortages; an inadequate transportation system; and other missed opportunities. Some of the worst actions taken by state leaders were the decimation of the public health system, including drastic reductions in the Medicaid and CHIP programs in 2003. Another really bad decision was the target revenue system for public schools, which choked school budgets across the state. Yet another fateful decision was Perry's refusal to expand Medicaid; had he done so, Texas's health institutions could be on the cutting edge of modern medicine, instead of struggling to make ends meet. A decade later, here we are, still last in the country in the number of people without health insurance, still stuck in court trying to develop an equitable school finance system. All of this is happening when Texas is enjoying boom times that should encourage state leaders to address the state's infrastructure needs, thanks to the bounty of the Eagle Ford shale, but there is no will to put the oil revenue to work by enhancing our transportation network, including oil-field roads that get heavy traffic. Perry is responsible for many of the failures, but the state's business community has only recently awakened to the reality that without infrastructure improvements -- in roads and bridges, in the generation of electricity, and in the effort to expand water supplies -- commerce in the state may grind to a halt. Texans do a lot of bragging about the number of people and businesses that are relocating here, but we don't have the ability to provide for their needs.

Debra Medina's Prospects

Can Debra Medina throw a monkey wrench into the race for comptroller? She doesn't have the money to compete with the two leading candidates, Hegar and Hilderbran, but she has residual name I.D. and a loyal following left over from her 2010 race for governor. (See my colleague Erica Grieder's interview with her from December.) At the very least, Medina could throw the race into a runoff. Who votes in runoffs?

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