AUSTIN, TX, November 11, 2013 ( – State Senator Wendy Davis' statement that she is “pro-life,” made just before she officially entered the governor's race this weekend, was designed to “muddy the waters” about her position on abortion and appeal to voters who are far more conservative on the issue than she is, according to some pro-life leaders in the state and around the country.

Last Tuesday, the Forth Worth Democrat told an audience at the University of Texas in Brownsville, “I am pro-life.”

“I care about the life of…every child that goes to bed hungry, every child that goes to bed without a proper education, every child that goes to bed without being able to be a part of the Texas dream,” she said, giving the term “pro-life” a different meaning than its typical construction.


Recognizing the potential damage, Davis' press aide Rebecca Acuña said her candidate's claim that she was pro-life “was taken out of context.” According to Sandra Sanchez, opinion editor for The Monitor of McAllen, Texas, Acuña even went so far as to call her at 11:30 pm that night “asking that The Monitor retract a headline on an online article that referenced Davis’ 'pro-life' position. She then tried to backpedal and said her comments weren’t for publication, although they were made during a public media briefing.”

An audio recording of the exchange, recently posted on YouTube, shows that Davis herself tied her “pro-life” remark to abortion.

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“Everyone's goal should be – mutually shared in the arena of abortion – and that should be that zero is the optimal number,” Davis said. “But I have different ideas, I suppose, of how to get there.”

Her opponents say that the latter remark is an understatement. Davis became the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for governor, and one of the most lionized women in her party, after filibustering a bill this summer that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, demand that abortion facilities meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, require abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their office, and mandate that medical abortions follow the FDA-approved method for administering RU-486. Editor-in-Chief Terrence P. Jeffrey calculated there are an average of 1.27 abortions per day at the 21st week post-fertilization or later in Texas.

Davis' decision to portray her opposition to the pro-life legislation as “pro-life” has left some Texans stunned.

“Say what?” is the subject line of e-mail from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, her likely Republican foe in the 2014 race for governor.

“It's disingenuous of Sen. Davis to claim she's pro-life following her filibuster in support of late-term abortions and against common-sense medical standards that protect the health and safety of women,” said Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch in a statement sent to the Houston Chronicle. “And the fact that she is running from her position demonstrates how radically outside the mainstream her point of view is.”

A University of Texas poll in July showed that 62 percent of Texans support restricting abortion to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Roughly the same percent of Americans overall hold that position. (A Huffington Post poll placed support at 58 percent.)

David Crockett, a political scientist at San Antonio's Trinity University, called Davis' statement “a way of trying to muddy the waters” about her abortion views. He added it is “not uncommon” for “people on the pro-choice side to call themselves pro-life, since that's kind of a positive label. Who's anti-life?”

Fox News contributor Mary Katherine Ham wrote at that Davis' statement was a “ludicrous…attempt to send the sneaky signal to conservative, low-info Democrats of Texas that she might indeed be 'pro-life.'” Ham said that would be a “hard sell,” since her views are more liberal than “most of Western Europe’s laws” on abortion.

At a national press conference in August, Davis said that she had launched her filibuster in favor of late-term abortion to protect “sacred ground,” and that every woman should enjoy the “liberty, the freedom to choose what your future will hold.”

Texas voters will likely have plenty of time to evaluate the Fort Worth state senator's record. Davis filed papers to run for the governorship on Saturday. 

Texas Right to Life has endorsed her likely opponent, Greg Abbott, who has sued the Obama administration more than two dozen times, including joining a groundbreaking, multi-state case against ObamaCare.

“Attorney General Abbott has shepherded Texas through the culture war well by protecting innocent human life at all stages,” said Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life. She said Abbott had worked to “ensure that women have full access to health care services at agencies that are not sullied by affiliation with abortion.”

“Not only does Attorney General Abbott’s record show his concern for pregnant women, but also his record of protecting all women from the predatory abortion industry is clear,” Graham said.

Davis' version of the future includes generous funding for “family planning” services for Planned Parenthood. “If what we really care about and what we should care about is getting to an abortion number that is zero, then we should make sure that women are empowered to plan well for their future and their family,” she said.

Davis welcomes the opportunity for voters to compare her vision with Abbott's.

“My job as a candidate is to make sure that people see me as who I am,” she said.