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Kaitlyn Bishay

Period 3
AP Language and Composition
8 January 2016

Profiles in Courage APA


An indomitable fighting spirit cannot be quelled by circumstance or location. Wendy Davis, a
lawyer and United States Senator from Fort Worth, Texas proves courage can be found in the
most undesirable of situations. Even though she herself had a severely disadvantaged youth,
Davis worked to provide a stable life for her daughters and a place for womens rights issues in a
highly conservative state. As a Democrat in Texas - a heavily Republican-populated state - Davis
fights daily battles on a myriad of issues, with womens rights at the forefront. While many of
her fellow politicians disagree with her stances, she resists ...the temptation to leave my home
state of Texas, where movement toward progressive values can often feel like an unattainable
goal (Davis, 2015) as she fully believes in the causes she supports. Davis made herself a
spearhead of the Democratic Party in Texas in 2013, when she held a filibuster and persevered
for thirteen hours to keep a restrictive bill from being passed, even though its subject matter hit
very close to home. Of her struggles, she reports that she has ...found that the things worth
fighting for are always the hardest. And there is so much to be gained in fighting the fight, even
when we fail (Davis, 2015). Despite her almost debilitating struggles as a child through
adolescence, Wendy Davis fight to upstand her personal morals in her life and her politics is
both courageous and commendable.
At no point has Wendy Davis life been easy. Although reporters show a caricature of her life a heroic struggle... that of a teenage, trailer-dwelling single mother, who, while raising two

daughters, bootstrapped her way into Harvard Law School, (Draper, 2014, p. MM18) they fail to
mention how she worked her way up from nothing. Davis, having grown up in a broken home
with a mother with only a sixth grade education, had her first daughter unplanned at the age of
eighteen (Fernandez, 2013). Although she married the father, he became physically abusive, and
that was the day [she] took [her daughter] into [her] arms... and never returned to that mobile
home (Davis, 2014, Location 1468). Through this act alone, her bravery is evident - as a
teenager, this is no small feat - despite being in an emotionally and physically manipulative
environment, she found a way out of the vicious cycle, creating a better life for her daughter. In
time, she found a second husband in the way of Jeff Davis, and became pregnant three more
times times. The first, time, her daughter Dru Davis was conceived, and she attended Harvard
Law School with her daughter in the womb. Davis was committed to both her education and her
children, undeterred by the challenge of being a full-time mother and a full-time student.
However, her second pregnancy held serious health risks to her body and her third pregnancy
posed serious health risks to her unborn daughter. She was inevitably forced to terminate both
pregnancies. Her second abortion was an act of selflessness - although she wanted to be able to
cherish her daughters life, she knew if she let the baby come to term, she would only prolong
her pain (Davis, 2014). Against the better wishes of her Republican colleagues, she decided to
have an abortion. This was an understandably traumatic experience for Davis, who almost fell
into a depression similar to postpartum depression, where recent mothers feel helpless and
anxious due to the loss of their babies (Mayo Clinic, 2015; Davis, 2014). Davis, however, wasnt
only mourning the physical separation of her daughter, she was mourning her death. Today,
despite her own experiences with abortion, Davis is considered a champion of womens rights specifically abortion rights.

Davis had no choice to terminate her pregnancies, but as the summer of 2013 approached,
other Texas womens choices were being encroached upon. In 2009, the Guttmacher Institutes
research into abortion characteristics states that ... 18 states enacted 34 abortion-related laws,
none of which was intended to expand or protect access to abortion, (Jones, Finer, and Singh,
2010, p. 13) and these sorts of regulations spread across the country. Bill SB5, a bill to be
enacted by legislature of Texas, prohibited abortions more than 20 weeks after fertilization, and
held strict regulations on the state of abortion clinics (Texas Congress, 2013; Huffington Post
Politics, 2013). This effectively rendered Texas women incapable to take care of their own
bodies and to make informed decisions, as even if the abortion was called to protect the mothers
life - an exception to the law - the number of abortion clinics in the state decreased rapidly, from
forty-seven to five (Culp-Ressler, 2013; Texas Congress, 2013; Huffington Post Politics, 2013).
With virtually no options, this ruling could severely limit the accessibility of safe abortions to
Texas women. As a Democrat, it seemed Davis was heavily opposed to this regulation, despite
her traumatic experiences with her own abortions. However, unlike many of her colleagues,
Davis was prepared to stand with the women of Texas and the defend their choices. This isnt
about protecting abortion. Its about protecting women... trusting women to make good decisions
for themselves and empowering them with the tools to do that (Lavender, 2013). Not only did
she speak for womens rights, she fought for them. Despite Texas reputation as incredibly
conservative state, before Bill SB5 could pass, it had to be debated and voted on. If Davis could
delay the vote until after 12 AM, she could effectively end the bill (Huffington Post Politics,
2013). And so her filibuster began.
On Tuesday, June 25, 2013, Davis woke up determined to fight Texas majority Republican
senate. She knew the implications of the bill - SB5 would disproportionately affect low income

families who, needing to travel to an abortion clinic, would be limited to one clinic every 53,600
square miles to get the treatment necessary (Culp-Ressler, 2013). She also knew that she had
three strikes - if she got off-topic, leaned on her desk, otherwise supported herself, or ceased
talking, her time would be over. Her session started at 11:11am. She had to outlast the vote,
which was scheduled to happen before 12am, the next day (Huffington Post Politics, 2013; Davis
2014). As the day went on, Davis was introduced to the story of Carole M., a mother who also
required an abortion due to serious health risks to the baby. Had SB5 been enacted previously,
her abortion would not have been legal. It is very frustrating to feel like the choices you have
made for your babys life and death are not being respected... Being told that you dont really
have any control over how our baby is going to die is devastating and self-defeating (Davis,
2014, Location 3582). Although Davis saw herself in Carole and her unborn child, she forced
herself to move on with the day despite her emotional attachment, and reminded herself through
the trials of her aching back and uncomfortable catheter why she was fighting. However, as soon
as she walked in, she had a target on her back. At all times, at least one Republican senator
watched her vigilantly, waiting to catch her wrongdoings. As time went on, it became clear to her
that the senators were manipulating rules, trying to speed along her filibuster - [in the past,]
even reading from a phone book had been allowed. But for [Davis], ... [her] Republican
colleagues had predetermined that they were going to strategically find a way to end the
filibuster... (Davis, 2014, Location 3610). This only pushed her further. Davis was not going to
back down, and she didnt, much to her opponents chagrin. When her third strike was called, she
was incredulous. Fortunately, so was the small crowd that amassed to see her speak - the chaos
that ensued pushed the vote on the bill until 12:03, effectively shutting down SB5 (Huffington
Post Politics, 2013; Davis, 2014).

Davis constant drive and determination despite her circumstances exemplifies President John
F. Kennedys grand idea of courage, as he states In the days ahead, only the very courageous
will be able to take the hard and unpopular decisions necessary for our survival in the struggle
with a powerful enemy, (Kennedy, 1956, p. 19). Although situations and contexts change,
Davis courageousness can be seen in her personal life and even in her political decisions. When
her powerful enemy was poverty, teenage pregnancy, and lack of education, she decided she
would ignore others advice and leave her somewhat stable life to create a better life for her
daughter. Although this put her in a tight financial spot, she knew what she had to do to survive.
And when her formidable opponent was the Republican Party of Texas, she knew that she had to
push back against a bill she believed was unjust and unfair to a womans body autonomy. Even
though she knew she would be immediately silenced, would lose votes, and would have to reflect
on one of the most painful eras of her life, she decided a womans right to chose was important
enough to fight to defend. No matter the enemy, Wendy Davis was and is ready to face it head
on.

References

Culp-Ressler, T. (2013, June 9). Texas advances sweeping anti-choice bill that will force most
abortion clinics to close. ThinkProgress. Retrieved from http://thinkprogress.org/
health/2013/06/19/2180571/texas-advances-trap-special-session/.
Davis, W. (2014). Forgetting to be afraid: A memoir [Kindle version]. New York, NY: Penguin
Group. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Davis, W. (2015, December 2). Wendy davis: I fucking hate to lose. Lenny Letter. Retrieved
from http://www.lennyletter.com/work/a175/i-fucking-hate-to-lose/.
Draper, R. (2014, February 16). The legend of wendy davis. The New York Times, p. MM18.
Fernandez, M. (2013, June 26). In battle over texas abortion bill, senators stand catches the
limelight. The New York Times, p. A18.
Huffington Post Politics. (2015, July 1). Ill not yield - Wendy davis takes a stand in texas
[Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Je3lRGs-_AA.
Jones, R., Finer, L., & Singh, S. (2010). Characteristics of u.s. abortion patients, 2008.
Guttmacher Institute: 1-28.
Kennedy, J. F. (1956). Profiles in courage. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers.
Lavender, P. (2013, November 6). Wendy davis: My views on abortion mean 'i am pro-life.
Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/06/
wendy-davis-pro-life_n_4227184.html.
Mayo Clinic. (2015). Postpartum depression symptoms. Retrieved from
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/basics/
symptoms/con-20029130.

Texas Congress. Senate. (2013). Senate bill number 5. (No. 83S10724 JSC-D). Austin, Texas:
Texas Legislature Online.