Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis reveals in a new campaign memoir that she terminated two pregnancies for medical reasons in the 1990s, including one where the fetus had developed a severe brain abnormality.
Davis writes in "Forgetting to be Afraid" that she had an abortion after an exam revealed that the brain of the fetus had developed in complete separation on the right and left sides. The Associated Press purchased an early copy of the book, which hits stores Tuesday.
The memoir also describes ending an earlier ectopic pregnancy, in which an embryo implants outside the uterus. Davis disclosed the terminated pregnancies for the first time since her nearly 13-hour filibuster last year over a tough new Texas abortion law.
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Both pregnancies happened before Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, began her political career and after she was already a mother to two young girls.
She writes that the ectopic pregnancy happened in 1994. Terminating the pregnancy was considered medically necessary. Such pregnancies generally aren't considered viable, meaning the fetus can't survive, and the mother's life could be in danger. But Davis wrote that in Texas, it's "technically considered an abortion, and doctors have to report it as such."
Davis said she and her former husband, Jeff, wound up expecting another child in 1996 after they decided to stop taking birth-control measures. During her second trimester, Davis said she took a blood test that could determine chromosomal or neural defects, which doctors first told her didn't warrant concern. After a later exam revealed the brain defect, Davis said she sought opinions from multiple doctors, who told her the baby would be deaf, blind and in a permanent vegetative state if she survived delivery.
"I could feel her little body tremble violently, as if someone were applying an electric shock to her, and I knew then what I needed to do," Davis writes. "She was suffering."
She goes on to write that an "indescribable blackness followed" the pregnancy and that the loss left her forever changed.
Davis catapulted to national Democratic stardom after her filibuster temporarily delayed passed of sweeping new abortion restrictions. She's now running for governor against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is heavily favored to replace Republican Gov. Rick Perry next year.
Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch did not return messages seeking comment.
Anti-abortion groups, including those that have attacked her candidacy, expressed sympathy for the tough choice Davis confronted with the second terminated pregnancy but said they hoped all decisions end in choosing to continue a pregnancy.
"That's an incredibly difficult position for anyone to find themselves in. While our heart goes out for the decision she had to make, again, still the value of life is precious," said Melissa Conway, spokeswoman for Texans Right to Life.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, said in a statement that she was grateful for Davis sharing her story, though "no woman should have to justify her decision."
Davis' filibuster in June 2013 set off a chaotic scene in the Texas Capitol that extended past midnight. Thousands of people watched it live online, with President Barack Obama at one point tweeting, "Something special is happening in Austin tonight."
In the book, Davis recalls reading testimony during the filibuster about a woman who had had an abortion after learning her daughter would be born with a terminal illness. She says the story could have been hers and writes about her hands shaking and wiping tears from her eyes.
At one point during the filibuster, Davis said she almost felt compelled to talk about her failed pregnancies but said she knew it would overshadow her effort to block the bill.
The bill required doctors who perform abortion to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and mandated that clinics upgrade its facilities to hospital-level operating standards. A federal judge in Austin last month blocked a portion of the law that would have left Texas with only seven abortion facilities statewide.