Wendy Davis Gears Up for Next Failure

Wendy Davis / Getty Images
April 20, 2022

Perennial political failure Wendy Davis on Tuesday filed a legal challenge to the Texas Heartbeat Act, which bans abortion after six weeks.

Davis claims the act, which allows citizens to sue anyone who performs or enables an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, is "blatantly unconstitutional." Davis's lawsuit targets a state legislator and three pro-life activists who are taking steps to sue pro-abortion funds.

"Defendants' public threats against abortion funds and their associates have had a chilling effect on some of those organizations and individuals … which intrudes upon Ms. Davis's ability to associate with like-minded people to express her views and achieve her advocacy goals," the lawsuit reads.

The dispute over the heartbeat law is the opening act to a longer drama. The Supreme Court heard a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade in December 2021 and signaled the landmark case could be overturned by summer. The number of abortions in Texas fell by 50 percent following implementation of the law in September.

Davis works with an Austin-based abortion support group called the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity. Lilith and its allies pay for abortions or help clients obtain the procedure out of state, meaning they're liable under the heartbeat law. Another pro-abortion group called the Stigma Relief Fund, and two of its board members, joined Davis as plaintiffs.

Attacks on the heartbeat law have stalled since the Texas Supreme Court snuffed out the most promising attack on the act in March.

Davis's case, Davis v. Sharp, was assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in the federal trial court in Austin. In an extraordinary and unusual step, Pitman last year forbade citizens from filing suits under the act and barred Texas courts from accepting them. His decision was overturned on appeal.

Davis, who lost a bid for Texas governor by 20 points and a bid for an Austin-area congressional seat by 7 points, fails as a litigant much as she fails as a politician. She sued the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after she lost her first bid for the city council in 1996, alleging the paper’s "biased" coverage spoiled her campaign and her mental health. A judge tossed the case on First Amendment grounds.

Davis also lost the famed pink tennis shoes she wore during her filibuster of a law banning abortions after 20 weeks. The Washington Free Beacon swiped them from an estate sale at her Fort Worth home in 2016 for $120.