BELTON — Molly White keeps a few essentials in her 2009 white Cadillac Escalade:
Rubber fetuses in sizes that reflect different stages of pregnancy.
A folder holding more than 700 affidavits signed by women in Texas who say they’ve been hurt by abortion (hers included).
Brochures on what she believes are the dangers of abortion and birth control pills.
They’re all part of her strategy to educate as many Texans as possible on her views on reproductive health.
“We are women and we are designed to give birth, we’re designed to nurture, we’re designed to bond. It’s just nature,” White said inside her favorite coffee shop in Belton, the community she will soon represent as a first-term Texas legislator. “… And when we violate that natural way of having a child and giving birth, it’s going to affect us.”
When White takes office in January, she will immediately be one of the Texas House’s most conservative members. In the Republican primary, she upset incumbent Ralph Sheffield by some combination of knocking on thousands of doors and winning the support of conservative groups like Empower Texans. She is eager to address GOP calling cards like border security and lowering or abolishing property taxes.
But to a degree unique among her new colleagues, ending abortion is White’s personal and political passion. She had two abortions in her 20s and says the physical and mental suffering she endured afterward, including cervical damage, a hysterectomy, drug and alcohol abuseand suicidal thoughts, convinced her that the procedure is unsafe and shouldn’t be legal.
White takes this opposition a step further than many abortion foes; a nonprofit she founded counsels against both birth control and sex education that promotes it.
These are widely contested views that most doctors and researchers say are not rooted in sound science. The vehement response White’s position draws was on display at a Texas Tribune Festival panel in September, when Austin state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, a longtime Democratic legislator on stage with her future colleague, became so incensed by White’s claims that she spoke of her own abortion for the first time — calling it a routine medical procedure.
Conservative strategists say White’s political debut presents an interesting opportunity to advance even more anti-abortion legislation in Texas. She arrives in the Legislature as Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, whose failed gubernatorial bid followed her high-profile filibuster of a bill further restricting abortion in Texas, departs. Both women have had personal experiences with the procedure.
“I really do believe that the left or the liberal side of the aisle really doesn’t know what to do with a representative like Molly White,” said Luke Macias, a Republican political consultant who worked on White’s campaign. “Their ‘war on women’ mantra really falls on deaf ears when it comes to Rep. White.”
Democrats, meanwhile, say they worry that White’s entrance into the Legislature could distract lawmakers from more pressing issues and advance policies that aren’t based in fact.
“We need to have evidence-based public policy,” said state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, adding that when it comes to health care, policy must come “from the medical community and not anecdotes.”
The political reality is that White is unlikely to move the needle much in a lower chamber that appears almost certain to remain in the control of House Speaker Joe Straus, an establishment Republican who wants to keep lawmakers focused on the budget, education and infrastructure, not red meat social issues.
And White says she doesn’t have any preconceived notion of the role she will play in abortion legislation in the upcoming session.
She thinks the anti-abortion legislation of 2013 — which banned abortion in Texas after 20 weeks, required women to have the procedure at facilities that meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and heightened requirements around hospital admitting privileges for doctors who perform abortions — was largely effective. (The constitutionality of the admitting privileges rule has been upheld by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The ambulatory surgical center provision, which closed all but a handful of Texas abortion clinics, was put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court while it is being reviewed by the appellate court.)
One additional target in 2015, White said, could be what she calls “loopholes” in judicial bypass — the cases in which minors whose parents don’t give consent for an abortion may seek permission from a judge instead.
“She’s quite articulate in….read more here.