It was her opposition to a proposed ban on elective abortions at the 20-week gestation mark that elevated former Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis to the status of liberal celebrity.
Progressives and their supporters in the press gushed over the obscure state senator who mounted a failed filibuster in opposition to that bill. The media’s devotion to the cause of unfettered access to elective abortion catapulted the unprepared politician into the national spotlight. Eventually, all the attention led to Davis’ recruitment to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott over Democrats like San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro who had been groomed for the role for years. Last November, Davis lost, and she lost badly. Not only did a Republican succeed three-term Gov. Rick Perry in the governor’s mansion in Austin, but Davis’ old state Senate seat was also lost to a Republican – and a self-described tea partier, no less.
If liberals had bothered to consult the polls rather than just their guts, they would have learned that abortion restrictions up to the middle of the second trimester enjoy majority support. Just a few weeks after Davis’ ill-fated filibuster, four separate surveys found that such a ban was relatively popular, and that it was more popular among women than it was among men.
What does it all mean, The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake asked in 2013? “It means that, if and when Republicans in the Senate push for a vote on the 20-week abortion ban (which already passed in the House), they can credibly make the case that they are doing something that women support,” he wrote.
In January, the GOP tried and failed to pass a national 20-week ban on elective abortions even despite its popularity. “A Quinnipiac University poll showed 55 percent preferred the 20-week option, while 30 percent preferred the current 24 weeks,” Blake wrote while revisiting the subject in January of this year. “Another 7 percent volunteered that abortion should always be illegal. And a Huffington Post/YouGov poll showed a 59/30 split in favor of 20 weeks.”
Even if such a ban had passed, President Barack Obama vowed to veto legislation that would reduce the time one can get an elective abortion from 24 to 20 weeks. “The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 36, which would unacceptably restrict women’s health and reproductive rights and is an assault on a woman’s right to choose,” the president’s veto threat read. “Women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care, and Government should not inject itself into decisions best made between a woman and her doctor.”
This week, House Republicans again passed a measure that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, but they will face an uphill battle in getting it to the president. Not the least of their obstacles is a media culture that defaults to the Planned Parenthood position on virtually any legislation pertaining to abortion. To wit, Sarah Ferris’ recent post in The Hill.
Republicans are ramping up their attack on Roe v. Wade with a House vote Wednesday on a bill banning late-term abortions.
While it’s unlikely to pass the Senate and reach President Obama’s desk, Republicans say they are playing a long game.
They hope that, over time, support for prohibiting most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy will become widespread.
There are valid and compelling arguments for why a federal 20-week ban may be prohibited by the Constitution. The Washington Post’s Jonathan Adler and National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru have debated the issue at length, and both make rather compelling points. But none of them appealed to the language Ferris used, none of which would be out of place in a PPAct fundraising email blast.
Who knows how challenges to this legislation would play out in the courts, presuming it is ever passed by Congress and signed into law by a Republican president. In the interim, debates over a federal 20-week ban are purely academic. What’s clear, however, is that the press hasn’t learned any lessons from their myopic and biased support for the lost cause of Wendy Davis.