A Tale of Two Representatives — Wendy Davis and Margo Davison

How one woman’s needless, and cruel death at the hands of Dr. Gosnell in 2002, is shaping a 2014 state’s election in Pennsylvania and exposing the darker side of Planned Parenthood, and how that might influence the Governor’s race in Texas.

This is a tale of special interests and financial support: money given and money and support withheld.

It is the tale of two Democratic State Representatives:

Photo Credit: Texas Tribune

Photo Credit: Texas Tribune

One, a rock star of the national women’s movement — Wendy Davis, who fourteen weeks and two days after she filibustered a Texas legislation session to a standstill by defending the rights of women to have unrestricted access abortion after 20 weeks and exempting abortion clinics from health and safety requirements, announced her candidacy for Governor.

The other— Margo Davison, who on December 16 2011, from the floor of the Pennsylvania House, in a quiet, sure, voice chose to speak for Semika Shaw –who died in excruciating pain as a result of a botched abortion at Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society clinic in 2002.

Pennsylvania_State_Rep_Margo_Davidson_D_CNA_US_Catholic_News_3_26_14Margo Davison grew up in the same neighborhood as Gosnell’s clinic. Her cousin Semika’s horrific death contributed to Margo’s decision to run as a Democrat for State Representative. Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates is the state political arm of the national abortion business, and endorsed her 2010 campaign. Margo Davison’s 2010 win was historic – for the first time the 164th Legislative District was represented by a Democrat, a woman and an African-American.

2011 was to be a year of hard choices for the freshman legislator.

Pennsylvania State lawmakers were stung, and shamed into action by the condemnation of the Gosnell Grand Jury Report.

The grand jury found that Pennsylvania officials had shied away from stringent inspection of clinics so as not to be perceived as erecting barriers to abortion. The report repeatedly questioned why state health officials didn’t treat the abortion clinics like other ambulatory surgical facilities that were subject to stringent standards, annual inspections, and unannounced visits to investigate complaints.


“Under the plain language” of existing law, the report said, “abortion clinics should be regulated, licensed, and monitored as ambulatory surgical facilities.”
— Quoted from: D.A. Williams fires off letter to Pa. lawmakers over new abortion-clinic bill by Angela Couloumbis, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau


The grand jury report was clear in its conclusions — greed, profiteering and political correctness had amalgamated into the horrific exploitation of vulnerable women. Pennsylvania HB 732 proposed legislation to remedy the lax regulatory environment that enabled Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society clinic.

On December 16, 2011 when the legislation came to a vote. Democratic the Pennsylvania State House Representative, District 164, Margo Davison stood up for her dead cousin:


Today I honor [Semika’s] memory by voting for this legislation that seeks to safeguard the health of women that is long overdue, so that never again will a woman walk into a licensed healthcare facility in the state of Pennsylvania and be butchered, as she was, with her uterus perforated and her death of sepsis and infection permeating in her body till she writhed in pain on the floor of her home to her ultimate death.  And today I thank the members of this house that supported this legislation for the safety of women.”


Margo wasn’t wearing signature pink shoes, her talk wasn’t live-streamed to thousands of NOW stalwarts, and the Huff-Post didn’t breathlessly report her floor speech. MoveOn.org didn’t ask mailing list members to “Chip-in $5” to support the brave woman who stood up and spoke so eloquently for the safety of poor and minority women of her District — women who had died or had been permanently maimed as the result of Pennsylvania lax attitude toward the regulation and inspection of women’s health clinics.

Davison won re-election with nearly 70-percent of the 2012 vote, but she had fallen out of favor with Democratic-constituents unhappy with her voting record on women’s reproductive rights.

Abortion activists were about to extract a price for Margo Davison defection from the party line. After a February Delaware County Democratic convention that led to an open primary, Davison found herself in a fight for the 2014 Democratic nomination.

On March 17 2014, one year from Gosnell’s “not guilty plea” and ten months after his conviction for first-degree murder, and a count of involuntary manslaughter in the drug-overdose death of a patient who had undergone an abortion, Planned Parenthood PAC announced it was actively working to remove Margo Davidson from office and endorsed Democrat, and Billy Smith as their choice for District 164. On March 24 2014 NOW made their historic endorsement of Billy Smith, the first time NOW had ever endorsed a Democratic man running against a Democratic woman. On April 2nd the Keystone Progressives piled on with their endorsement of Billy Smith. With this stunning series of endorsements, Planned Parenthood, with the help of NOW, and the Keystone Progressives, threw their support — time, talent and treasure to Billy Smith — a man.

The series of political maneuvers leading up to these endorsements were so odd, that on March 21st 2014, Brandon McGinley of The Federalist led an article with this statement:

Country’s largest abortion provider has a weird way of responding to Gosnell’s victims.”

McGinley’s article went on to note that, based on their actions and statements, the growing public perception of Planned Parenthood was that they simply didn’t care about the health and safety of the very women that depended on their organization — women like Semika Shaw. Planned Parenthood seems more focused on suppressing the public discussion concerning the ramifications of Kermit Gosnell’s conviction and erasing the visceral memory of his victims.

“Make no mistake about it: The campaign against Margo Davidson is a campaign to erase the memory of Kermit Gosnell from Pennsylvania politics.”
— Brandon McGinley


If Planned Parenthood cared about women like Semika Shaw, the organization wouldn’t oppose laws like the one Rep. Davison supported. The abortion clinic regulation many States proposed in the wake of the Gosnell atrocities require them to be held to the same standards as other out-patient surgical facilities. If, as they claim, Planned Parenthood and their affiliate operations are being managed to provide patient care and safety equal to other licensed out-patient surgical clinics, there would be nothing in the proposed regulatory over-sight to which they could legitimately object.

The basis of Planned Parenthood’s legal objection to meeting the new requirements has been, that it would be ruinously expensive to conform its surgical abortion facilities to the standards of other ambulatory surgical facilities. One has to wonder if the Planned Parenthood legal team realized the “negative optics” of that claim. To someone watching the drama play out in State courts around the country, that argument seems to indicate just how sub-standard the existing Planned Parenthood facilities must be. If Planned Parenthood and their affiliates really care about Semika Shaw and the other victim’s whose trust and bodies were violated by a lax regulatory and accountability environment, they would reallocate their prodigious legal fund, and use that money to bring their abortion clinics up to code. Even if Planned Parenthood’s legal expenses are being donated by supporters, why not use that level of committed support to address the core issue: some existing abortion facilities are not currently up to accepted health and safety standards.

Why not reach out to the millions who support free or inexpensive access to abortion to poor and minority women? What if MoveOn.org were to send their mail-list subscribers this plea: “The women of your state need you. Will you chip in $5-bucks to underwrite safety improvements to your state’s women’s clinics?” Don’t you think folks who support safe abortion would rather help women directly, rather than donate to some nebulous political patronage machine?

Apparently Planned Parenthood did not use the Gosnell Grand Jury report as a “teachable moment.” Self-reflection and possible reform did not rise to the top of their agenda. Two years after the Gosnell revelations, the state of Delaware closed down the Planned Parenthood of Wilmington. This facility was located just over 30-miles from the Gosnell’s former Philadelphia clinic. Delaware took action based on reports of, “meat market-style assembly line abortions.” Nurses testified that women were being processed through the clinic so quickly that “bloody discharge would remain on the exam table as woman after woman after woman was herded into the office.”

If Planned Parenthood really had women’s heath and safety as a priority, they would have taken steps to correct the conditions in Delaware — but they chose not to. Just as they chose not to take action when women who had been abused in Gosnell’s clinic-of-horrors reported their treatment to Planned Parenthood.

What one Pennsylvania reporter dubbed the most under-reported fact related to the Gosnell trial, was that the Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania knew how poor and minority women were being treated at the Gosnell clinic. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the organization received numerous complaints about their torturous experiences at the Women’s Medical Society.

When Gloria Steinem addressed the 2013 PPSP Spring Gathering, Dayle Steinberg, PPSP president and CEO revealed that some of Gosnell’s patients came to Planned Parenthood and complained to staff about the conditions at his West Philadelphia abortion clinic.

As Steinberg, sat with Steinem, she was quoted saying, “We would always encourage them to report it to the Department of Health.”

Planned Parenthood may spin that so they had some level of deniable culpability, but even their stoutest supports might honestly ask: In passing the responsibility of reporting back to their poor and minority constituents, many who are not native english speakers, and hesitant to draw the attention of a government official — did they knowingly dodge they responsibility? Did this fact invite outside regulation and formal oversight?

And what about Representative Margo Davison? On May 20 2014, she beat Billy Smith 53% to 42% in a hard fought primary. It was an amazing win considering the resources invested against her by her own party. One has to assume that the voters of District 164 approved of Davison’s overall job performance. On September 15th, a slightly chastened NOW endorsed the only Democratic left in that race.

This of course is just the first half of our story. Next we will look at how Planned Parenthood, NOW and MoveOn.org changed the dynamic of the Texas governor’s race in their continuing battle to exempt abortion clinics from same type of health and safety regulations that provide oversight for other types of out-patient medical clinics.



Author: H. Sandra Chevalier-Batik

I started the Inconvenient Woman Blog in 2007, and am the product of a long line of inconvenient women. The matriarchal line is French-Canadian, Roman Catholic, with a very feisty Irish great-grandmother thrown in for sheer bloody mindedness. I am a research analyst and author who has made her living studying technical data, and developing articles, training materials, books and web content. Tracking through statistical data, and oblique cross-references to find the relevant connections that identifies a problem, or explains a path of action, is my passion. I love clearly delineating the magic questions of knowledge: Who, What, Why, When, Where and for How Much, Paid to Whom. My life lessons: listen carefully, question with boldness, and personally verify the answers. I look at America through the appreciative eyes of an immigrant, and an amateur historian; the popular and political culture is a ceaseless fascination. I have no impressive initials after my name. I’m merely an observer and a chronicler, an inconvenient woman who asks questions, and sometimes encourages others to look at things differently.