AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Following the leaked opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court, reported by Politico, Texas Democrats hope the potential decision to overturn Roe v. Wade could potentially drive more voters to the polls this year.
The high court’s opinion, if it remains the same when it comes time to release the final decision, would allow states to set their own abortion laws.
Here in Texas, that would set off a trigger law, House Bill 1280, passed by state lawmakers last June.
“It’s an attack on the women of Texas. There’s no more direct way to put this, not only is it an attack on the right to an abortion, it’s been protected, the law of the land for the last 49 years,” Democratic candidate for governor Beto O’Rourke said in his first interview since the news of the leak Tuesday.
The trigger law would take effect 30 days after Roe v. Wade is officially overturned.
“It means that abortion will be outlawed criminal even and this is important for all of us to understand even in cases of rape and incest and danger to a woman’s life,” O’Rourke explained.
Earlier this year, the Texas Politics Project polled potential Texas voters and found a majority of voters overall, 53%, do not support a complete ban on abortion.
“When you ask Texans directly, do you want abortion to be illegal? Do you want Roe v. Wade to be overturned? More than half routinely say they do not. And again, that includes a significant share of Republicans,” Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, said Tuesday.
“The plurality position among Republicans when you ask more nuanced questions, is they want abortion available, primarily in cases of rape, incest or threat to the woman’s body a little over 40%,” Henson explained.
Henson explains Democrats will try to use this to their advantage in two ways.
“One, to mobilize Democrats, who have basically homogenous attitudes in favor of abortion rights. They’ll use it to mobilize Democratic voters, and they’ll use it to try to appeal to independents, who look more like Democrats than like Republicans on this issue,” Henson said.
KXAN reached out to Governor Greg Abbott’s office for comment on the news of the leak but has not yet received a statement. He has not posted about it on his social media pages, either.
Republican State Rep. Jim Murphy of Houston said Republicans’ position on abortion has remained the same for years.
“Republicans have long stood for life. [We’ve passed] a number of bills over a number of years to do various things to protect life. And of course, if the court steps in and does that, then we have achieved something huge,” Murphy said.
“People can elect the folks they want to vote on the laws they want. And what we’ve done so far, is elected people who’ve said they’re gonna stand for life,” Murphy noted, pointing to the majority Republicans hold in Texas in the state’s highest offices, along with the state House and Senate.
Texas’ trigger law, though, takes abortion restrictions in the state to a controversial level, since there are no exceptions for rape or incest.
“It’s been required for Republican candidates to oppose abortion rights to oppose Roe v. Wade, to pass legislation that demonstrated to the very vocal section of the Republican Party, for whom this is a big issue that they were committed, but in many ways have not had to completely pay for that commitment,” Henson said.
It’s too early, though, to tell if this single issue will be enough to sway voters.
“The other issues that are out there border security and the economy, criticizing Biden, those are powerful drivers of Republican public opinion. It’s still a big question mark,” Henson said.
Impact on runoff elections
While there are months left before the November general election, the Supreme Court’s leaked opinion could have an impact on voters’ decision on who they cast their ballot for in the primary runoff, set for May 24.
That includes the Democratic congressional race for District 28. Incumbent Congressman Henry Cuellar faces a challenge from Jessica Cisernos.
“The Women’s Health Protection Act did pass through the US House, it would codify Roe. Unfortunately, a Texas Democrat was the only Democratic member to vote against it, Henry Cuellar,” in South Texas,” former Democratic state lawmaker Wendy Davis said Tuesday.
“I think that Jessica Cisneros is going to do everything she can to nail Henry Cuellar to the wall on this particular issue. And there will be a lot of people myself included to back her up on that,” Davis continued, pointing to Cisneros’ tweets Tuesday morning.
Cisernos tweeted, “Losing the right to choose is imminent. This decision will affect millions in our country, making health care even less accessible than it is now. Yet, Cuellar voted with Republicans against codifying Roe.”
O’Rourke adds Texas voters cannot depend on change at the federal level.
“If we wait for those in positions of power in DC, to save the day here in Texas, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives. That is a big reason that I’m running for governor. It’s a big reason that we have to win this,” O’Rourke said.