By Janet Morana
and Kevin Burke, LSW
For more than 11 hours in June 2013 Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) laced up her infamous pink sneakers and stood on the Senate floor, without food or bathroom breaks, to filibuster an abortion bill that has shut down more than a dozen abortion centers so far in the state of Texas.
Now we learn in her recently published book that she experienced a traumatic abortion loss in 1997. The media will spin this story in predictable directions. They will present Sen. Davis as one who personally understands the difficult health care decisions women face and as future Democratic governor she will be a courageous advocate for the women of Texas.
But there is a deeper and more complex story behind the headlines. The filibuster of Sen. David and the public confession about her own abortion are less about political activism, abortion rights and opportunism. They reveal much more about the complicated grief that follows an abortion procedure…and how that repressed emotional and spiritual pain may be driving her pro-abortion activities.
From the New York Times:
[Davis]…learned in the fall of 1996 that she was pregnant for a fourth time. In her second trimester, she and her husband at the time, Jeff Davis, learned that their unborn daughter whom they named Tate had a rare brain abnormality. Doctors told the couple that if the baby survived delivery, “she would probably be deaf, blind and in a permanent vegetative state.” In the spring of 1997, Ms. Davis terminated the pregnancy, describing it as “the most humane and compassionate thing we could do to spare Tate” any pain and suffering.
We can imagine the fear, anxiety and grief that followed the diagnosis. Many good people, in the darkness and confusion of such times, will be tempted to see abortion as both a sensible and compassionate decision. The medical community aggressively counsels that abortion is the only medical solution for such a diagnosis. (It should be noted that physicians often present the worst case scenario and fear of lawsuits can be deadly for the unborn.)
Legalized abortion has tempted medical professionals to assume a God-like authority over matters of life and death for their unborn patients. This places anxiety-filled, grieving parents facing a challenging pre-natal diagnosis in the impossible position of having to participate in the death of their own child:
Sen. Davis shares:
In our doctor’s office, with tears flowing down both our faces, Jeff and I looked at our baby daughter’s beating heart on the sonogram screen for the last time,” Ms. Davis wrote. “And we watched as our doctor quieted it. It was over. She was gone. Our much-loved baby was gone.”
Predictably, depression followed the abortion.
Davis writes quote, “an indescribable blackness followed. It was a deep, dark despair and grief. A heavy wave that crushed me. It made me wonder if I would ever surface…and when I finally did come through it, I emerged a different person. Changed. Forever changed.”
The Truth Will Set You Free
Sen. Davis and her husband, with the counsel of medical professions, felt that ending the life of their unborn daughter was, as she stated, the most humane and compassionate thing we could do to spare Tate any pain and suffering.
Surely the suffering of their daughter was part of the motivation of these parents to abort…any parent can sympathize with their dilemma. But is it possible that if they were to be totally honest, they were also fighting with their own fears? Were they struggling to accept and embrace the challenges and pain of giving birth to a child with disabilities?
Wendy Davis and her husband very likely have not attended an abortion healing program. If they did, they would have to face the reality that while the medical dilemma put them under serious pressure to see abortion as the only option…they participated in the death of their unborn child. It is impossible to witness the direct and deliberate ending of a child’s life and not experience emotional and relational consequences.
Abortion is an unnatural and traumatic shock to the body, heart and soul of a pregnant woman. Medical professionals and counselors should have used that time to prepare the couple for the child’s birth, what to expect, and how to love and care for their precious child for however long the baby lives. Here is a good resource for such life-affirming choices.
The Filibuster of 2013: A Labor of Complicated Grief?
Wendy Davis was denied the opportunity to go through the natural birthing process with her daughter. The Davis’ were not able to hold and love their daughter for however long she lived and learn to see the great benefits that this challenging but also blessed time could have been for their family. Failure to acknowledge falling to this temptation to assume God’s providence over life and death will make it difficult for this couple to fully grieve and heal this loss. Guilt, pain, anger will remain…often hidden deep beneath the rationalizations that this was the right and compassionate choice.
Some of the founding members of pro-abortion feminism movement were women with traumatic abortion in their history. Like Davis, without a deeper emotional and spiritual healing of this loss, they need to continually justify their choice by becoming active in pro-abortion politics, advocacy and even volunteering at abortion centers. The Texas bill that presented reasonable restrictions on abortion, and those who fight to end abortion, present a direct psychological threat to the defenses Davis has established deep in her psyche against her abortion trauma.
The pro-abortion activity and public confession of her abortion also serve as a powerful outlet for the complicated grief, guilt and anger that needs to be continually repressed…but struggles to find expression. Anti-abortion activists and public political activity that highlights our nation’s contentious struggle with this issue, become a convenient target for anger and rage at one’s spouse, self, God and other involved in the abortion decision.
Perhaps we can revisit the abortion filibuster of June 2013 and see in this very public action on behalf of abortion rights as being closely connected to her incomplete abortion healing. At great personal sacrifice she labors for hours on end, without food and water…to fight what she sees as draconian abortion restrictions. I would suggest that what was driving this display may be closely related to the abortion disrupting her body’s ability to go through the natural labor process…which she displaces onto a dramatic, lengthy and painful filibuster process.
An important part of any abortion recovery program, is telling your abortion story.
Sen. Davis now has offered a public confession in her book about her traumatic abortion loss. Here too we see an attempt by Davis to continue to process her loss and find understanding and support. This is common among those who suffer abortion loss and helps end the secrecy and isolation that normally follows the procedure. Davis in her political role receives the affirmation and support of other women, pro- abortion activists and media, and when confronted with opposition, may see herself as a courageous heroine for other women’s rights, willing to stand tall and take the heat.
The Challenging but Rewarding Journey to Heal, and the Deadly Cost of Denial
But the human heart and soul defy our desperate rationalizations. They seek a healthy and honest grieving of this loss. They call us to accept that in fear, anxiety and a failure to trust in God’s providence, we can take actions that are reserved for the Creator of life. This requires the deepest humility and much grace. We can all abort God’s will in our lives at times of fear and darkness.
The journey of healing is not one of judgment and condemnation. It is more the blessed gift of being able to confess our weakness confronted with an overwhelming moral and medical dilemma. But it is only with the gift of honesty and humility that healthy grieving and deeper healing are possible. This can take time as these wounds are very sensitive, especially immediately after the loss.
The failure of Sen. Davis and her husband to fully reconcile and grieve this loss has led her to become a very public proponent of abortion. Sadly, the unresolved complicated grief, guilt and pain of her own abortion experience has not only taken her disabled daughter’s life in the womb, but could lead to the death of many more unborn children if her political power increases and she gains access to higher office.
Let’s pray she will read this article and find in it a compassionate and loving invitation to a deeper healing of her abortion loss in an abortion recovery program.
To read about couples who received poor pre-natal diagnoses and chose life for their babies, read “Recall Abortion.”