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Former Texas senator Wendy Davis advocates for women’s health

| Tuesday, April 5, 2016

In June 2013, Wendy Davis fought for the protection of abortion rights in an 11-hour filibuster in the Texas state senate. Nearly three years later, she continued her advocacy for women’s health with an hour-long talk and discussion at Notre Dame. Hosted by the Notre Dame College Democrats, the event was co-sponsored by Women in Politics, Progressive Student Alliance, BridgeND and the department of gender studies. 

20160404, 20160404, College Democrats, Debartolo, Grace Tourville, lecture, Rising Up- From Single Mother to Harvard Law- How Every Woman Stands to Make a Difference, Senator Wendy DavisGrace Tourville | The Observer

Davis said her own personal experiences with women’s health issues has colored her views on the issues, especially in regards to her beliefs on abortion.

“The issue of [abortion] is not to impose our ideas on other people — particularly when we may not understand the position a person is in, and the decision she is making,” she said.

According to Davis, she made the decision to terminate a pregnancy.

“[I was] post-20 weeks of pregnancy of a much-wanted pregnancy that I had waited years to have, and … our very much-wanted child was suffering from a fatal fetal brain abnormality,” Davis said.  “What we were told was that if our child survived delivery, which she would likely not, that she would live a life of tremendous suffering — if she lived long at all — and we made a decision out of love.”

She said her abortion prompted her 2013 filibuster in the Texas senate to block a bill, which banned abortions after 20 weeks and greatly restricted women’s access to abortion clinics.

“That was my decision to make; it wasn’t a decision that a legislature made for me,” Davis said.

However, abortion only addresses one facet of the issue, Davis said. Many women still face barriers to climbing the social ladder, such as the large cost of childcare, she said.

“For so many women in this country today, whether they are married or single, entering the workforce or entering the academic arena so that they can earn the kind of income that would help make their lives better, can be impeded by the obstacle that is unaffordable child care,” Davis said.

The lack of access to high paying jobs is another barrier women face, according to Davis.

“In spite of the fact that more than 50 percent of college graduates are women, two-thirds of minimum wage workers in this country are women and one-third are raising children on a minimum wage,” she said.

Due to these facts, Davis said it is vital to have a discussion on these issues.

“I think it is very important that, as we have these conversations about women regarding equal opportunity in this country, we necessarily put together [the] connection between reproductive autonomy and economic opportunity in this country,” Davis said.

In order to have these conversations, however, Davis emphasized the need to embrace feminism.

“We’re on a college campus, and, as I look around the room, I see a dramatic number of women,” Davis said. “Feminism is responsible for that. I think it is important for us to embrace and not hide from that word.”

Davis said her political views on the lack of opportunity women experience in the United States were impacted by experiences her family had during her early life. 

“[My mother] and my grandmother, like so many women in this country today, strapped on or laced up their shoes, with a single purpose — to lift up their children to have a better future than each of them had,” Davis said. “But they lacked an education and an opportunity to fulfill these dreams for themselves.” 

Davis said she enjoyed certain opportunities that allowed her to climb the ranks her mother and grandmother could not.  One of the most important of these, Davis said, was her access to a local Planned Parenthood clinic.

“It was my access to the only healthcare that I had for four years, at a Planned Parenthood clinic near my home,” she said. “That clinic provided me my woman care, my cancer screening and diabetes screening. But it also was a place where I could get counseling.”


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About Lucas Masin-Moyer

Lucas Masin-Moyer is a senior at Notre Dame majoring in Political Science and American Studies. He serves as Assistant Managing Editor, lived in Morrissey Manor and hails from Telford, Pennsylvania.

Contact Lucas