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Wendy Davis Tells Of Her Own Difficult Abortions In 'Forgetting'

Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for the governor of Texas, came to the attention of most Americans outside Texas when, as state senator, she filibustered a highly restrictive abortion bill for 11 straight hours.

Now Davis is making headlines for her newly released memoir, Forgetting to Be Afraid. In the book, Davis revealed for the first time that she had two abortions herself. She also details her gritty and sometimes unhappy life growing up, first in Rhode Island and then Texas, Oklahoma and California.

Davis' parents divorced, remarried and then divorced again. She told NPR's Wade Goodwyn that her family was in dire financial straits after her father started his own nonprofit theater company.

"My mother, who had only a ninth-grade education — which wasn't at all uncommon for farming families of her generation — went to work for really the first time in her life," she said. "My brothers and I all went to work very young, to really help us make ends meet."

During Davis' first year in high school, she met an older boy, and at the end of her junior year she moved in with him and was soon pregnant with her first child.

A nurse at the medical clinic where she worked changed Davis' life when she handed her a course brochure from the local community college.

"I started looking through it and decided that maybe I could try to become a paralegal," she says. "So, while working a full-time job, and a part-time job waiting tables at my father's dinner theater at night, I also enrolled in paralegal courses."

It was an educational journey that took her all the way to Harvard Law School.

This week, Davis' opponent, Republican Greg Abbot, filed an ethics complaint accusing Davis of illegally using campaign funds for a book tour stop in New York City. The Davis campaign called the complaint "frivolous."

Interview Highlights

On her two abortions during her second marriage

The first, the ectopic pregnancy, was difficult, as you can imagine. ... The second was so much more traumatic. We had tried for a couple of years, and we were so excited to discover that I was expecting a girl. We named her Tate Elise, and began preparing for her arrival, and it wasn't too much longer after that that we — my former husband and I — discovered that she had a severe brain abnormality. We were in a tailspin. Through a great deal of pain, we ultimately made a decision that the most loving thing that we could do for her was to let her go.

On running as a Democrat in a state known for electing Republicans

When I entered this race, I did it thoughtfully. I knew that if I was going to ask people to donate their time or their money to me, I needed to be able to look them in the eye and say, "I believe I can win." I started with an extraordinarily high name ID — which is rare for a statewide Democratic candidate. I also started with a partnership, a group of folks who saw in Texas what I see. It's not that Texas is a deeply red state; it's that it's a chronically low-vote-participation state.

We have over 240 paid field organizers on the ground. We have over 26,000 volunteers. When people believe that their votes are going to matter, they show up. I remain convinced that not only is this a winnable race, but [that] we will win it.

Copyright 2024 NPR

NPR Staff