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Leaked Roe v. Wade opinion puts abortion rights on the ballot in Texas

Beto O'Rourke will face Greg Abbott in the November election.
Beto O'Rourke will face Greg Abbott in the November election.

Abortion rights are now front and center in Texas' top 2022 races, as the threat of a complete statewide ban looms over this year's upcoming election.

Both gubernatorial candidates — incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott and his Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke — made appearances Thursday, during which they addressed a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

At a press conference in north Houston Thursday, Abbott denounced the leak itself, but urged the Supreme Court justices to fast track a final decision.

“Don’t wait around and don’t allow the bullying to occur on the streets,” Abbottsaid. “The public has seen it, get it out.”

Abbott added that if the final decision overturns Roe v. Wade, the result would dovetail with efforts from state lawmakers to restrict abortion rights. Those effortswere realized in the passing of a so-called "trigger law" last year, which would make performing an abortion a felony 30 days after Roe’s reversal, banning the procedure throughout the state of Texas in most cases.

TEXAS STANDARD | The Texas abortion “trigger law,” explained

Democrats hope the leaked decision helps galvanize voters.Beto O'Rourke, the Democrat running against Abbott, held a press conference Thursday morning outside the Texas Capitol to talk about his pledge to protect reproductive rights if elected.

"I'm going to make sure that we work with the people of Texas on this, that we work with the state legislature and that ultimately we do what I think all of us agree on," O'Rourke said. "And what most everyone in Texas agrees on is that this is a decision for a woman to make."

The candidate told reporters ​his campaign is launching a door-knocking initiative in response to the leaked draft opinion.

He said his campaign has had thousands of volunteers sign up to help "have a conversation about this specific issue" with other voters.

“We need someone in that office who’s going to reflect the will of the people of Texas," O'Rourke said. "And I can tell you, in this issue, people in Texas want to ensure that women can make their own health care decisions.”

Lawmakers also passed Senate Bill 8 last year, which outlawed abortions after the first six weeks of pregnancy and allowed citizens to sue people or organizations who perform or help someone get an abortion.

In the Texas attorney general’s race, incumbent Ken Paxton tweeted that he believed abortion legislation was a matter of states’ rights, later telling Newsmax the decision would allow Texas and other conservative states to legislate the matter.

“The Supreme Court got into this business 50 years ago and they shouldn’t have,” Paxton told host John Bachman. “It wasn’t their obligation, it wasn’t their duty, they weren’t supposed to, and they’ve done a relatively bad job.”

Abortion rights also made their way to the lieutenant governor’s race, where Mike Collier on Friday touted his April endorsement from Planned Parenthood for this month’s runoff.

While Collier will face fellow Democrat Michelle Beckley on May 24, he focused his criticism squarely on incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who on Twitter called the possible reversal of Roe a “great day.”

"Dan Patrick wrote some of the most extreme anti-abortion legislation in the nation,” Collier wrote in a statement Friday. “His focus is dangerous, reckless, and out of step with the majority of Texans.

Beckley, for her part, touted her own abortion rights record on Twitter.

— Michelle Beckley for TX Lt Gov (@BeckleyforTX) May 4, 2022

According to a UT/Texas Politics Projectpoll released Wednesday, 54% of all Texas voters are against banning all abortions if Roe is overturned.

Despite that, Abbott said he felt confident about his odds of victory in November’s gubernatorial election.

“Regardless of what position people have on abortion, I feel competent based upon my past history with regard to the issue, as well as my past history on elections in the aftermath of those issues, that I’m going to win,” Abbott said this week.

But former state Sen. Wendy Davis, who unsuccessfully ran for governor against Abbott in 2014, said the leaked opinion will help voters better understand what's at stake if they don't vote in the gubernatorial race in November.

"I believe that as a consequence of our understanding of the threat that we now face — the very real threat that our daughters and granddaughters face — we will engage in this midterm election in a way that we have not in the past and in a way that we may haven't in this particular race," Davis told reporters Thursday.

Additional reporting by Paul DeBenedetto of Houston Public Media.

Copyright 2022 Houston Public Media News 88.7. To see more, visit Houston Public Media News 88.7.

Lucio is a reporter and photojournalist currently studying media production at the University of Houston. He has previously worked as a news photographer for Houston Public Media, the NPR affiliate in Houston, Texas. His photography has appeared throughout several Texas-based NPR affiliates.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán, The Texas Newsroom