TIME States

Davis Campaign Seizes on ‘Abortion Barbie’ Posters in Texas

Once forgotten, abortion returns as an issue in Texas’ gubernatorial campaign

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis recently came upon life-sized posters of her head on a naked Barbie doll’s body, with a tiny infant doll in her stomach and a giant pair of scissors hanging ominously, and inexplicably, over a black baby doll to her side. The posters, which greeted David as she traveled to California for fundraisers last week, read: “Hollywood Welcomes Abortion Barbie Wendy Davis.” The posters were signed Sabo, a self-described conservative street artist who told the San Antonio Express-News he was paid by Kathryn Stuard for the work. Struad, a supporter of Davis’s Republican opponent Greg Abbott, confirmed this on Twitter. “I find it fascinating that my support of a talented artist is the story,” Straud wrote. “He is the story. Why hate that he expresses visually what u [sic] support.” Abbott, the Texas attorney general, disavowed the posters. “These posters are not affiliated with our campaign and we find them appalling,” Abbot spokesman Matt Hirsch said in a statement. Davis first rose to prominence for an 11-hour filibuster of an anti-abortion bill in the Texas state Senate. But abortion is not a top issue for Texas voters and Davis, trailing Abbot by 12.3 percentage points in a RealClearPolitics average of state polls has tried to focus her campaign on the economy, education and immigration. Abortion isn’t a top issue on her website.

The issue grew so cold that some Republicans accused Davis of running away from it. “There are early indications that the so-called ‘War on Women’ has run its course. Look at Wendy Davis, who catapulted to national fame a year ago on this issue of abortion,” a GOP strategist told TIME in April. “If you go on Wendy Davis’ campaign website it’s completely scrubbed of anything having to do with abortion and she now describe herself as pro-life. She has a 46% approval with women in Texas and Greg Abbott is beating her among women.” While Davis never went so far as to describe herself as pro-life, groups that favor abortion access did go after Davis for saying she’d support a ban on 20-week abortions, though she’d said even before the filibuster that that was a piece of the anti-abortion legislation she would have supported. But with the poster controversy, abortion has returned as a campaign issue with a vengeance. Davis’ campaign has sent out no less than five fundraising emails off the scandal. “We’ve had a really strong response regardless of where people stand on the issue to the poster,” Davis spokeswoman Lauren Weiner said. National women’s groups and other candidates have condemned the posters. All of which shows, there’s little candidates can do sometimes when some supporters take things too far.

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