As Wendy Davis launched her book-tour-within-a-political-campaign with a series of television interviews -- fielding questions about her difficult decisions to terminate two pregnancies -- Greg Abbott expressed sympathy even as his aides raised questions about whether her publisher's promotional push violated campaign finance laws.
A day before Davis' memoir, "Forgetting to be Afraid," was scheduled to appear in bookstores, the Democratic candidate for Texas governor gave a number of interviews in which she discussed why she opted to disclose those deeply personal matters in the middle of her campaign.
"I gave a great deal of thought to that," Davis said. "And ultimately, I felt so privileged by the women and men who had shared their stories with me, stories that I read on the floor of the Senate on June 25th of last year. And I wanted to share my story, too."
Davis writes in unflinching detail about the two terminated pregnancies. In 1994, she writes, her doctors terminated an ectopic pregnancy, a procedure commonly considered a medical necessity when an embryo implants outside the uterus.
Ectopic pregnancies are "technically considered an abortion and doctors have to report it as such," Davis wrote.
Two years later, after she became pregnant again, Davis writes that prenatal tests revealed the fetus was developing with severe brain damage that would have left the child in a permanent vegetative state, if it survived delivery.
"I could feel her little body tremble violently, as if someone were applying an electric shock to her, and I knew then what I needed to do," Davis wrote. "She was suffering."
Davis became an overnight sensation in Democratic politics when she filibustered against Republican-sponsored legislation that critics argued would effectively shut down most of the state's abortion providers. Her campaign has worked hard to shun the image of a one-issue candidate, so the disclosures in her memoir are especially noteworthy less than two months before Election Day.
Abbott, the Republican front runner in the governor's race who opposes abortion even for victims of rape or incest, issued a statement over the weekend expressing sympathy for Davis.
"The unspeakable pain of losing a child is beyond tragic for any parent," Abbott was quoted as saying in a written statement from his campaign. "As a father, I grieve for the Davis family and for the loss of life."
His campaign later raised questions about whether the promotional campaign behind Davis' book violates state campaign finance laws, which prohibit corporate contributions to politicians. Abbott's campaign basically argues that the book's publisher is making in-kind contributions to the Davis campaign by promoting an author who's running for governor.
The timing of the publication has raised questions among some political analysts, who point out that candidate biographies are generally published months or years before an election to help boost a politician's public stature well before the final phase of a campaign. Now the question becomes whether Davis' memoir, with its revelations about her terminated pregnancies, will persuade any voters.
"I don't think so," said Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist and KHOU analyst. "I think people who were going to vote for Wendy Davis or not vote for her on the issue of abortion are well established. These are people who have strong preferences. What I thought was interesting is this is a way she saw to, of course, promote not only her book, but her name ID."