The end of the row changed the electoral landscape in Texas

On August 25, one of the most extreme abortion laws in the United States went into effect throughout Texas. As a result, legislation signed by Governor Greg Abbott and supported by 98 percent of his Republican colleagues in the Texas Legislature — but opposed by nearly 80 percent of Texans — now bans abortions that begin with pregnancies.

Despite voters’ indifference to the abortion ban, Abbott and Republican lawmakers opted to criminalize the procedure and punish doctors who perform abortions with life in prison and a civil penalty of at least $100,000. There is no exception for rape or incest, and the only exception is if the pregnant patient suffered “a life-threatening physical condition caused by, or resulting from, pregnancy”.

While Abbott and his fellow conservatives in Texas and nationally claimed victory over abortion, this may have been a pyrrhic one. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade—combined with overreach by anti-choice Republican hard-liners nationwide, who pushed for legislation without exception, a proposed prohibition on the sale of contraceptives, and the use of in vitro fertilization and advocated a federal ban on abortion – effectively putting the reproductive option on the ballot for the 2022 midterm election.

Dobbs’ decision served as a wake-up call to those concerned about abortion access and reproductive choice. Given recent elections in New York, Kansas and Alaska – as well as spikes in voter registration since the Supreme Court ruling – concerns over abortion rights are playing a significant role in voting and pro-election ballot initiatives and winning for candidates. Huh. As a result, the likelihood of a significant Republican wave starting June 24 has diminished. Is this still possible? Undoubted.

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In normal midterm election years, the party in the White House usually suffers because it holds a referendum on the performance of the president. But this is no ordinary year. Until Dobbs’ decision, Democrats faced an uphill battle with a relatively unpopular president and increased inflation that disproportionately affected millions of Americans. While inflation and the economy remain top issues, the incidents of the Uvalde massacre and other mass casualties include the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Biden’s executive order waiving student loan debt, a hemispheric heat wave and drought that has affected the climate. Concerns about change have been outlined, and former President Donald Trump’s ever-present dramas have helped shift the dialogue. Add this to the end of the row, and GOP candidates across the country are defending abortion. Nowhere is that more evident than in Texas, especially in the race for governor.

The difference between Abbott and his rival, Democrat Beto O’Rourke, couldn’t be more clear. While O’Rourke regularly discusses Texas abortion laws on the campaign trail, on his website, in commercials, and on social media, Abbott has been reticent to engage in an extended discussion on the issue. This raises some interesting questions as to why.

Abbott’s campaign website dedicates all three short, boilerplate sentences to abortion. Of particular interest is the “News” section of his campaign. Oddly, there appears to be nothing on Dobbs’ decision, nor about her signing Senate Bill 8 into law in May 2021.

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