The Texas House of Representatives just passed HB 15, a bill requiring women to receive a sonogram and a heavy dose of guilt in order to obtain an abortion. Several Ds voted for the bill; one R voted against it, claiming (correctly) that the bill goes against the GOP principle of limited government by literally intruding in women’s personal business.
Sarah Davis (R-134) was that lone R voting against HB 15.
Before anyone lionizes her for standing up to the tidal wave of Republican idiocy, let’s look at how risky her stance really was.
Hint: not risky at all.
It has been clear from the start that anti-choice, anti-woman state legislators would have an easy majority for passing this bill. Our pro-choice Ds put up as much opposition as they could, and made every attempt to amend some of the sting out of the bill, but we knew it would pass.
So, if she couldn’t change the outcome, what reason would she have for voting against it?
Sarah Davis barely won in a district that could go either way in the next election. To win, she’ll need the GOP base + a few pro-choice Republicans who in the past voted for Ellen Cohen and who could be persuaded to vote for a sensible, moderate Democrat in the future.
While some people might say her vote represented her principles, I think it represented a bid for the swing voters of district 134.
The people of a GOP-persuasion in her highly educated, extremely wealthy district are more often than not fiscal conservatives rather than social issues conservatives. They largely oppose abortion, but it isn’t the issue that gets them to the polls. They’ll vote for the Republican candidate because that candidate best protects their fiscal interests.
To actual GOP-wingnuts, the true believer, Dan Patrick/Glenn Beck/Grover Norquist types, Sarah Davis has never been an attractive candidate anyway, and they’ll throw her under the bus as soon as a more “qualified” social conservative runs against her in a primary. But, if they have to choose between her and a Democrat, they’ll pick her. And they aren’t the majority in her district.
To pro-choice Republican women and men, and this district has those a’plenty, her vote looks somewhat principled. She stood up to the social conservative/right-wing nutballs and voted for small government. This makes it easier for her to appeal to them. See, she can say, I’m really just like you.
Anti-choice Democrats basically can’t fault her since, again, it was clear the bill would pass anyway.
Pro-choice Democrats aren’t very likely to let her off the hook for this vote. They’ll start to ask her to take their side on other bills, and she’ll have to balance losing political capital among her GOP colleagues with gaining votes from a group that didn’t vote for her in the first place and will be behind whatever pro-choice Democrat challenges her in the upcoming election. Seems unlikely she’ll be relying on this group to become part of her base any time soon.
In an ideal world, I’d be impressed by a state legislator standing up for what is right. But as the Texas legislature proved today, we are FAR from living in an ideal world. We live in a world where Republicans gleefully advocate for government so small it fits inside your vagina.
Had Sarah Davis been in a position to stop this bill from progressing with her vote, then I’d be impressed. If she had stood up and offered amendments designed to lessen its impact, or written to expose the hypocrisy of the bills’ supporters, then I’d be impressed. Someone let me know when she authors a bill that affirmatively protects women’s reproductive rights.
I won’t hold my breath.
I’ll close by pointing out that, as Kay Bailey learned, Republican women who try to stake out ground as moderates on abortion can no longer win in Texas state politics.
I’d love to be proven wrong about that, because this issue shouldn’t be the sole property of any one party. I’d love to see pro-choice Republican women make a come-back in Texas politics. Someone let me know when that happens so I can watch out for the flying livestock.
In case you can’t tell, I do not take too kindly to people using women’s bodies and women’s rights to score political points. Sarah Davis issued a press release, apparently immediately following the vote, explaining that she regretted voting against the sonogram bill because while she “respects life,” she must stand up against big government. I stand by my earlier point that someone who actually cares would have said something, filed an amendment, or tried to make the case for support from others in the House before the bill came up for a vote. Leadership by press release? I don’t think so.