Sarah Davis: The Tea Party’s Mad Hatter

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“A confused muddled mess”: A phrase which could be used to describe the unpredictable and unstable Mad Hatter from the long-loved story of Alice in Wonderland, has actually been applied to House District 134’s very own Sarah Davis. Elected in 2010 on her very conservative Tea Party platform, she seems to have become a bit lost since then and is now known as one of the Legislature’s most progressive Republican leaders, straying far from the Republican party’s stated platform. Many are left scratching their heads and wondering, “Who is the real Sarah Davis?” Let’s explore.

In 2013, Davis made a name for herself as being the only Republican to vote against the Pro-Life Omnibus Bill that, among other things, would have placed more stringent health and safety regulations on clinics providing abortions as well as prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks. More recently, in 2015 she repeatedly voted “No” on allowing Pro-Life Legislation to be heard on the House floor and fought against increasing funding for the state’s Alternatives to Abortion program. She proudly wears her “Pro-Choice Republican” badge and received just shy of $13,000 in in-kind donations from Planned Parenthood this November alone.

Davis uses her limited government ideals to support her pro-choice stance in the Legislature. In March of 2015, she stated, “As Republicans we have always believed in personal freedom, individual responsibility, and limited government, and that is embodied in the right to make decisions over your body….” In July of 2013, she is quoted in the Houston Chronicle as saying, “Republicans should be able to disagree about abortion, but we also should be consistent on our position that government should not be practicing medicine.” In another statement she says, “So just as I’m opposed to overregulation of industry, I’m opposed to the Legislature practicing medicine.” Also in 2013, “While the intentions of the author of the bill (HB 2) and its supporters are noble…the unfortunate reality is that the legislation does so in a manner that is most likely unconstitutional and interferes with the practice of medicine and the relationship a patient has with her physician,” and, “I believe, at its core, the Republican Party stands for personal freedom, which is lost when government controls our lives. I cannot support government dictating to us where and how we obtain health care.” An excerpt from her website in 2014 states, “Sarah believes in two important health care principles: protecting the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship [and] stopping government intrusions into the practice of medicine….

Wow. Certainly sounds noble, right? How could any conservative argue with such a pro-personal responsibility, pro-individual liberty, anti-government overreach position as this? But wait! Before we applaud her purist and literal approach to the government’s role in healthcare, let’s take a peek through the looking glass into the bills Davis has already filed for the upcoming 85th Legislative Session. HB 97 seeks to remove the need for parental consent for a minor to receive the controversial HPV vaccine. HB 107 wants to increase government efforts to track and report on rates of HPV vaccination in the state. HB 120 removes the phrase “reasons of conscience, including a religious belief” when referring to vaccine exemptions and replaces it with the term “non-medical” — clearly the first step on a very slippery slope leading to the doing away with of all “non-medical” exemptions. Finally, HB 126 would force individuals seeking exemptions to obtain an “education module certificate” before being granted their exemption and also authorizes an extra fee to be charged for this “education module.”

HUH? Let’s put aside (for the moment) the maddening level of unconstitutionality involved in the enforcement of these potential new laws, and instead ask exactly how Rep. Davis reconciles her opposition to the Legislature practicing medicine, her disdain for legislation that interferes with the the practice of medicine and the relationship a patient has with their physician, her inability to support government dictating where and how we obtain healthcare, or her commitment to protecting the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship and stopping government intrusions into the practice of medicine with her new mission to further muddle up our exemption and informed consent laws. She herself wrote, “Personal freedom and limited government are the foundation of my political philosophy. I believe the proper role of government is to provide only those critical functions that cannot be performed by individuals or private organizations and that the best government is that which governs least.” How do these bills contribute to her supposed foundational belief in limiting the power and reach of government? Her views are also in direct opposition to her own party’s platform on the issue of allowing families to make their own healthcare decisions. Are you as confused as we are, Representative Davis? I wonder if the nearly $190,000 she has received in donations from local and out of state medical groups and pharmaceutical companies from mid 2015 until now (making up 20% of her total donations during this time) might make things a bit less mysterious.

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Davis is joining forces with Representative Donna Howard (D), who has also already filed vaccine-related bills of her own (HB 241 and HB 243), in an effort to promote this as a bi-partisan effort. Read that again: A BI-PARTISAN EFFORT. In what fictional world is Sarah Davis a shining representation of the Republican party? Here in the real world, a Rice University study of Texas’ 84th Legislative Session placed Davis dead last in a ranking of Texas House Republican members from most conservative to most democratic. This is not a bi-partisan effort. This is an all out attack on your medical freedom of choice by a bought-and-paid-for-wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing-mad-hatter-wild-card politician.

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