Wendy Davis can’t explain how Gosnell murders and late-term abortions differ

The Weekly Standard asked Texas state senator Wendy Davis about her filibuster of the ban on abortions after 20 weeks.


Texas state senator Wendy Davis spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Monday afternoon about her 13-hour filibuster of a bill limiting late-term abortion, her life story, and her future in politics.

Davis has become a champion for pro-choice activists, but during her recent whirlwind national media tour, she never commented on late-term abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murder in May for killing infants moments after they were born.

Following her Press Club speech on Monday, THE WEEKLY STANDARD asked Davis to explain the difference between the late-term abortions that the Texas state senator wants to keep legal and the illegal Gosnell killings.

Davis didn’t answer the question. “I don’t know what happened in the Gosnell case,” she told me.

THE WEEKLY STANDARD: The supporters of these bans, they argue that there really isn’t much of a difference between what happened in that Philadelphia case with abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell [killing born-alive infants] 23 weeks into pregnancy and legal late-term abortions at 23 weeks. What is the difference between those two, between legal abortion at 23 weeks and what Gosnell did? Do you see a distinction between those two [acts]?

SEN. WENDY DAVIS: I don’t know what happened in the Gosnell case. But I do know that it happened in an ambulatory surgical center. And in Texas changing our clinics to that standard obviously isn’t going to make a difference. The state of the law obviously has to assure that doctors are providing safe procedures for women and that proper oversight by the health and human services department is being given. It sounds as though there was a huge gap in that oversight, and no one can defend that. But that’s not the landscape of what’s happening in Texas.

In June, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was similarly unable to explain the difference between the Gosnell murders and late-term abortions. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards ducked the question in July.

Polls have consistently shown that solid majorities of Americans, including women, support banning most abortions that occur later than 20 weeks after conception.

Asked what she thinks of polls showing women support limiting abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Davis told me that people “don’t really understand” the issue.

I actually think that it’s pro-abortion people like Nancy Pelosi and Wendy Davis, and their media sycophants, who don’t understand abortion.

Here is the ignorance again, this time on Jezebel, a radical feminist web site, as reported by the American Spectator.

Excerpt: (links removed)

Other examples include a Jezebel article that declares “the concept of fetal pain is bullshit.” It’s a fascinating piece, full of superfluous nicknames and profanities, centered on the astounding assertion that “there’s no evidence that nonviable fetal pain is a thing.” Even more fascinating, however, is that the author, Katie J.M. Baker, doesn’t cite one ounce of scientific evidence to support her claim. Instead, she awkwardly transitions into an incoherent rant against Republicans.

But despite the left’s panic, there is a strong case to be made that unborn children feel pain by 20 weeks.

In a 1999 article published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr. Vivette Glover and Dr. Nicholas M. Fisk explain a key fact:

The most important evidence [of fetal pain] is anatomical. For the fetus to feel pain, it is necessary for the requisite nociceptive pathways to be developed. This involves neural connections between peripheral receptors and the spinal cord, upward transmission via the spinal cord to the thalamus, and from there to the outer cerebral layers.

Among the scientific jargon lies a key word – “nociception,” which has to do with nociceptive neurons. These “generate trains of action potentials in response to painful stimuli, and the frequency of firing signals the intensity of the pain.” In other words, they are what make pain painful. Glover and Fisk say that “most incoming pathways, including nociceptive ones, are routed through the thalamus and, as stated above, penetrate the subplate zone from about 17 weeks” into a pregnancy.

Now it’s true we might never know for sure exactly when an unborn child feels pain and to what extent. But Glover, Fisk, and others conclude that it is very possible pain is felt by at least 20 weeks. “Given the anatomical evidence, it is possible that the fetus can feel pain from 20 weeks and is caused distress by interventions from as early as 15 or 16 weeks. This sets a limit to the earliest stage that analgesia might be considered,” according to Glover and Fisk. They don’t suggest that abortions should cease, but instead recommend that painkillers be administered to children about to be aborted.

Pro-lifers are very familiar with what a baby can do at all stages of development. We have to be, because we have to be able to debate this issue using the real evidence. We are also the ones who push for informed consent and mandatory ultrasound, whereas the other side opposes both of those. Why is that? It’s because the pro-life side has the evidence and pushes it, whereas the pro-abortion side tries to hide the evidence and appeal to feelings. Abortion supporters don’t know, and they don’t want anyone to know. Their embrace of abortion depends on their not knowing the truth.

Pro-lifer Amy Hall tweeted about an editorial from CNN that makes this point about willful ignorance. The author writes that pro-lifers want to ban abortion after 20 weeks in order to protect unborn children who have a heart beat. Huh? Unborn babies have a heart beat at week 6, according to the well-respected Mayo Clinic. That means that the CNN journalist was off by 14 weeks in her statement.  That’s the level of knowledge that you have on the other side of the abortion debate. It’s a self-serving ignorance designed to give them maximum autonomy and maximum irresponsibility.

For myself, I think that I’ll continue to look up to  pro-life women like Jaime Herrera Beutler and Michele Bachmann. They get it.

11 thoughts on “Wendy Davis can’t explain how Gosnell murders and late-term abortions differ”

  1. I once saw an abortions with ultrasound. The baby was trying to get away from the suction machine hose. If that doesn’t tell people about the pain of the unborn I don’t know what will.


  2. I had read that the bill Davis was fighting did not include a provision for when the health/life of the mother was at stake. This is a bit of a sticking point for me.

    It’s all very well for a mother to choose to risk her own life to attempt to save the (in some cases statistically doomed) life of her child. That’s kind of sacrifice we expect of parents. But I’m a little uncomfortable with requiring by law that one human being risk their life to save the life of another, especially in cases where the child cannot possibly survive.

    I can’t find anything other than commenters claiming this is the case. Nothing more “official”. I’d be curious if anyone knows if this was patently untrue and if the bill already adequately accounted for that.


  3. I run into this kind of ignorance all the time when debating the abortion issue online. The pro-abortion side has some of the most inane and anti-science arguments ever. They really aren’t arguments at all, but emotionally-based sound bites and feel-good slogans.

    A good example of this kind of ignorance is the question I often get about zygotes vs. sperm cells. They ask if I’m in favor of protecting sperm cells too. Uh, no. It’s really basic science to distinguish between a complete organism (with its own distinct set of DNA and which works toward its own survival and development) and a cell which is simply part of a body (and which is not genetically distinct and works only to serve the purpose of the body it belongs to). A sperm is NOT a separate individual. It’s just a cell, like a skin cell or muscle cell. An unborn child IS a separate individual from the moment of conception onward. This is really basic biology here. You can check any basic biology textbook and it will tell you that a new individual is formed at fertilization. But they are purposely ignorant so they can pretend it’s a complicated question or that nobody knows when life begins and use that as ammo to keep abortion legal.


  4. What does the ability to feel pain have to do with this anyway? Are those afflicted with leprosy less human simply because they cannot feel their fingers or feet? Are those born without pain receptors any less worthy of a right to live? So is it OK to kill someone if they are unconscious or on pain killers when you do it?

    The right to life position is based on the principle of equal rights for all human beings – that all human beings possess exactly the same inalienable right to live. The fact is that all human beings have the exact same right to life, and should be afforded the exact same legal protection. This is an equal rights issue – in fact, it is THE equal rights issue of our day.

    Those who defend legal abortion are in the unenviable position of arguing that some human beings have some intrinsic value and others do not. Unfortunately (for them), there is no objective, scientific or logical way to show that some human beings are worthy of a right to live and that others are not. Those who defend legal abortion simply do not have a shred of scientific support for their belief that some human beings should have legal protection and that other human beings should not.

    On the other hand, science is perfectly clear that a brand new human individual is produced at the point of conception, and that this new individual has a body of his very own. His body is genetically distinguishable from that of his mother. And his body is not simply an extension of his mother’s body; (in fact, if her blood were to accidentally enter his body, he would very likely die).

    In other words, science clearly supports the right to life position, in that it shows that from the point of conception onward, we are dealing with a complete and unique human individual. Since there is no way to show that human beings acquire sufficient intrinsic worth to warrant legal protection as they grow older, we are logically bound to extend legal protection to all human beings regardless of their age or perceived worth. Otherwise, we are guilty of unfair, prejudicial discrimination.


  5. “…science is perfectly clear that a brand new human individual is … genetically distinguishable from that of his mother. And his body is not simply an extension of his mother’s body”.

    This seems to be the fundamental issue that “pro-choice” advocates cling to, and I never hear them being taken up on it. The insistence that it’s “their” body, so they shouldn’t be told what to do with it.

    Does this point ever get debated with them? More than the question of when “pain” starts, and at least as important as when “life” starts, It seems their defense depends crucially on whether or not that developing human being inside them can be demonstrated to be considered the mother’s body.

    As long as they are allowed to fall back on the defense of “it’s MY body; no one should be allowed to make any decision about my body except me”. it seems all other arguments become void.


    1. This point has been raised with them. I’m afraid the “debate” if you want to call it that has moved on to whether the unborn are to be defined as “persons” or not. The so-called choice crowd believe the child is not. This, by the way, is the position of the Chinese government, who hold that until birth a child is a mass of flesh that can be aborted at any time, and they are known for doing full term abortions on illegal babies, even during birth. So we have people who use the definition of person to disadvantage those who inconvenience them. It’s almost like the 3/5th compromise all over again.

      And currently we see that the choice crowd are moving toward defining as a baby only those babies who are desired by the mother, which is why we see the term post-birth abortion.

      I live in Texas, in Austin as a matter of fact. The bill in question was intended to 1) stop all abortions after 20 weeks (with the usual out due to health of the mother – I’ll have to check the verbiage to be sure that wasn’t missed, but I don’t know a single person who is prolife who believes that abortion should not be an option when mom’s life is in danger); and 2) to force Planned Parenthood to have to meet certain standards expected of medical facilities so that we don’t have something like what happened with Gosnell happen here. Yes, it would have had the effect of closing a lot of their clinics in Texas UNLESS they pony up and meet the standard. A sizable majority of Texans supported the bill. Davis and her riotish cohorts were attempting to thwart the will of the people and she got lionized for it. Imagine the response if the reverse had happened.


      1. “I don’t know a single person who is prolife who believes that abortion should not be an option when mom’s life is in danger”

        Yes and no. IF the mother’s life is endangered *by the existence of the child in her womb,* then it is necessary to remove the child from the womb in order to save the life of the mother. It is not necessary to purposely kill the child in that process (as an abortion would).

        In cases where the mother’s life is in danger, but not due to her pregnancy (e.g. cancer), treatment for the mother should simply proceed as it normally would. If the treatment for the mother results in the death of the child, that is unfortunate, but the risk is acceptable in order to save the mother’s life. If the child must be delivered early and this results in death, it is still an acceptable risk. Yet it is still not necessary to purposely kill the child through abortion. The child should always be given a chance to live. In other words, you try to save BOTH patients, if possible. But if only one can be saved, the one that takes precedence is the mother’s life – not because she is more valuable, but because the child will die if she dies while the reverse is not necessarily true.

        What it comes down to is that an exception allowing abortion after 20 weeks in cases of risk to the mother’s life is unnecessary for a couple of reasons. First, if the mother’s life is truly in danger due to her pregnancy, you simply perform a c-section or induce labor, deliver the child, and give him a chance to live. Second, in many cases, performing an abortion after 20 weeks is actually MORE DANGEROUS to the mother than simply performing a c-section. To perform an abortion that late typically requires a drawn-out process (often taking 2 days or so) of dilating the cervix and then the abortionist must go in and actively dismember and remove the child. This is not only cruel and unnecessary, but also adds significant risk of uterine perforation, infection, damage to the cervix, infertility, and other issues – thus endangering the mother’s health. It is far safer to simply deliver the baby by this point in pregnancy. In fact, some doctors have advocated post-birth abortions (i.e. infanticide) in order to reduce the risks to the mother because they know that late-term abortions are riskier than giving birth.


        1. I am not at all well versed in the medicine, and obviously “sense” doesn’t really enter into a lot of the decisions made in this area, but if a c-section is really better for the mother medically than an abortion at 20 weeks, what woman would choose the latter? Even from a totally selfish standpoint. It makes no sense to me.

          It’s always seemed to me like if you were okay have the child dead, there’s no reason not to be okay with adoption. The only “hard part” is having to carry the child the 9 months until the adoption is possible. If the “hard part” is over one way or another, why would the mom care?

          Throws hands up in the air.


          1. Unfortunately, many people are not aware that a c-section is safer for the mother than a late-term abortion. That point is not politically-correct to mention so nobody does.

            Also, I have personally talked to a number of women who would rather have an abortion than give the child up for adoption. They are so selfish and hate children so much that they don’t even want to know they share the same planet with their offspring. They speak of the selfless act of giving birth and giving the child up for adoption as “gestating for the sake of other people” or “being a substitute womb.” Never mind that they made the choice to engage in activities that got them pregnant in the first place. They see going through a pregnancy as a horrible violation of the empowered feminist they want to be. I guess pregnancy and motherhood are too feminine to be embraced, or even endured, by these women.

            Abortion, at its core, isn’t really about choice or about safety for women but about hatred of reproduction and, specifically, a woman’s ability to bear children (which makes her demonstrably different than a man). How sad to hate children and the reproductive capability of one’s own body so much. It’s just another example of what feminism has done to women.


    2. “Does this point ever get debated with them?”

      Yes, but unfortunately, facts are not all that important to them. They have their opinion, and a handful of unscientific, illogical and factually false sound bites. It does not matter to them how much actual science clearly contradicts those sound bites. They cling to them because it’s all they have to support their opinion.

      “It seems their defense depends crucially on whether or not that developing human being inside them can be demonstrated to be considered the mother’s body.”

      That’s right, and in fact, it is easily proven that the body of an unborn child is NOT actually a part of his mother’s body. There are several ways to show this. First, one can take two tissue samples from the mother’s body and a geneticist can easily show that both are from the body of the same human being, and that they are from the body of a different human being than a tissue sample from her unborn baby. In other words, the two bodies are genetically distinguishable.

      Second, the mother’s blood travels throughout her body, but never enters the body of her unborn baby. If the placenta were to fail and allow that to happen, it would probably kill the unborn baby. Once he is old enough, the unborn baby has a circulatory system of his very own which carries his blood throughout his body.

      That these two human beings (mother & unborn baby) each have their own unique bodies is a fact that is inescapable. They are attached to each other, and the mother’s body intentionally modifies itself (in a preprogrammed response) to provide nourishment to her child, but that child is clearly and provably not actually part of her body.


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