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Hoping To Appeal To Women, Davis Tries To Paint Abbott As Extreme On Abortion

Mark Graham/Cooper Neil
The Texas Tribune
Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis, candidates for governor.

Democrat Wendy Davis appealed to women voters Tuesday by highlighting differences between herself and Republican opponent Greg Abbott on the issue that launched her race for governor- abortion.

Davis, who’s pro-choice, is challenging Abbott’s history of opposing abortion in cases where a woman becomes pregnant because of rape or incest.

Davis sharpened the differences between herself and Abbott at a luncheon hosted by Annie’s List, a group that raises money to support pro-choice Democrats like Davis.

She told the mostly female audience of 700 that Abbott’s position on abortion is extreme, even for Texans who are against abortion.

“Women who have been victims of rape and incest, and in those incidences where they’ve become impregnated, do not need Greg Abbott, do not need the government to tell them what they will do with their own bodies as a consequence of a horrible incident like that,” she said.

Abbott’s campaign has not responded to numerous requests over several weeks to confirm that he still opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest. 

Credit Shelley Kofler / KERA News
Candidate Wendy Davis answers a question from Dallas Morning News reporter Gromer Jeffers outside the Annie's List event Tuesday.

News articles written in 2002 when he was running for Attorney General quote Abbott as saying in a statement that in “these very difficult situations” of rape and incest he believes “life must be preserved.” 

During his first debate with Davis Friday, Abbott responded to Davis’ goading on the issue this way:

“I am pro-life and I am Catholic and like most Texans I believe all life is sacred.”     

Campaign consultants who support Abbott and Davis tangled over the issue Sunday on NBC5’s Lone Star Politics.   Abbott supporter Matt Mackowiak referred to victims of rape and incest as a minor number of abortion cases, and Davis supporter Matt Angle pounced.  Here’s part of the exchange:

Mackowiak: “We can get into minor issues that are one to two percent of the problem but ultimately Texas is a strong pro-life state.” 

Angle: “That’s the first time I’ve heard rape or incest called a minor issue.”

Mackowiak:  “It’s minor in terms of the percentage of the cases.”

Angle: “A victim of rape or incest is not a minor problem.”

Mackowiak says he doesn’t work for the Abbott campaign, but Davis is nevertheless calling on Abbott to disavow the statements.

“If I disagreed with something a supporter said I’d be quick to make a public statement about that,” she told reporters at the Annie’s List event.

Abbott and his campaign aren’t commenting directly on the flap except to say there’s no proof Mackowiak works for the campaign.

Republican consultants including Mackowiak say Texas is an anti-abortion state and Davis’ calling attention to her pro-choice position will only hurt her at the ballot box.

In her effort to attract women voters Davis doesn’t seem to agree.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.