Daily Beast: Wendy Davis Is ‘America’s Conscience on Abortion’

Conscience in the age of lowered expectations.

Pity The Daily Beast’s Keli Goff. Anyone who would try to explain “How Wendy Davis Became America’s Conscience on Abortion” must have a tragically ill-formed concept of conscience. Or maybe Goff just lost a bet.

But “The Texas gubernatorial candidate didn’t flip-flop,” Goff assured readers on Feb. 18, “she just voiced what a large percentage of Americans already think of this hot button issue.” That issue is a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, and Davis’ recently expressed support for such a ban (provided certain changes) is indeed in line with what a large percentage of Americans think. But most Americans didn’t become media stars and jump-start their political careers staging a catheterized, cutely shod 11-hour filibuster against such a bill. 

Davis admitted in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, “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,” rather than the 20-week limit itself. But when media from Fox to Gawker labeling it a flip-flop, fan-girl Goff charged out to defend the “feminist icon in the making” and “rising feminist star.”

Goff reprimanded them, saying, “The idea that Davis supporters or foes should get into a tizzy because she actually articulated the position of most Americans on abortion is silly. The idea that they would attempt to spin her nuanced response as politically calculating is even sillier.” And it certainly couldn’t be a case of a liberal politician running to the center in a conservative state.

“If Davis made any misstep at all,” Goff claimed, “it was the gaffe she made by simply telling the truth, which is that her position on abortion is like that of most thinking, feeling, Americans with a conscience.”

Goff elaborated, “Not only does she line up with ‘most people of Texas’ but most Americans” and cited Gallup poll that found 52 percent Americans believe abortion should be allowed “in only certain circumstances,” with 64 percent against abortion in the second trimester and 80 percent against it in the third trimester. “That means that most Americans—including those who believe abortion should be legal—wouldn’t consider the Texas 20-week ban extreme, or unreasonable.”

Hopefully, Goff hasn’t told that to NARAL and Planned Parenthood, and the rest of the abortion absolutists that constitute Davis’ base. They felt strongly enough about it to try to drown out democracy and shut down the Texas senate.

But then, according to Goff, “Most of those Americans [with consciences] are not fully ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life’ but if given a say in the matter would probably describe themselves as ‘pro-it’s-complicated,’ because life is messy and rarely black and white, and so our discussion of issues like abortion shouldn’t be framed as black and white either.”

If only we’d known that when the “GOP Taliban” was running roughshod over Texans’ reproductive rights and brave feminists were fighting them with only their passion and clever signs about vaginas.

Goff has explored unique topics in the past for The Daily Beast, such as “What Turns a Love Affair Into a Relationship That Actually Lasts?

— Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center. Follow Katie Yoder on Twitter.