A day after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was prodded to "name names" on Morning Joe, Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was accused of "maybe" lying about her abortion stories in her memoir Forgetting to Be Afraid.
The latest in disbelieving women: Wendy Davis abortion truthers, Gillibrand fatshaming truthers, domestic abuse deniers. What have I missed?— Irin Carmon (@irin) September 10, 2014
By casting aspersions on both of these stories in such a fashion, the media seem pettily transfixed on the small and anecdotal, which are the kernels of memoir, rather than the larger, instructive problems they mean to illuminate.
Gillibrand's saga was a bit more splashy: An excerpt of her memoir alleged that she had been warned not to get "porky" among other sexist things said by her Senate colleagues as she battled to lose weight after her pregnancy. Gillibrand, understandably, didn't disclose the identities of the offending men because...well... she still has to work with them. That didn't stop people—and not just randos on the street—from calling her a liar.
This brings us to Wendy Davis, whose candidacy for Texas governor is not without its challenges. Davis discloses two very personal episodes in her life in her memoir, namely two abortions, which she characterizes as despair-inducing moments. Over at the National Review Online, Dustin Siggins brings her accounts into question in a post entitled "Wendy Davis's Convenient Abortion Stories."
Actually, first, Siggins points to the rates of suicide and mental illness in women who have had abortions, speaking with pro-life advocate Emily Horne as a means of journalistic balance:
Women who have abortions are tragically 154 percent more likely to commit suicide than women who do not have abortions. They are also 144 percent more likely to abuse subsequent children and 500 times more likely to suffer from substance abuse after their abortions, according to a 2000 report in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse,” Horne explains.
Other studies have shown that mental illness is common after women have abortions. For example, 2006 and 2008 studies showed links between abortion and increased levels of counseling, marijuana use, and symptoms of mental illness."
Davis previously faced charges of biographical inconsistencies during her meteoric rise to the national stage, however, nothing quite like having her abortions called into question.
Siggins lets a few studies, some political calculations, and a pro-life advocate do the heavy lifting for him before adding that Davis has "a history of manipulating both people and the truth."
The Davis campaign did not respond to questions about whether Davis’s highly unusual abortions were matched by any medical evidence, doctor statements, or public verification from her ex-husband or two daughters."
He ends with this: "Maybe she had the abortion, maybe she didn’t. Maybe her reasons were as compelling as she claims. But the reasons Davis gives for having had her abortions are unproven and statistically unlikely."
The greater message seems to be clear: Female politicians shouldn't write memoirs. Or if they do, they should crib their titles from Mary Karr.