Texas’ abortion “trigger ban” went into effect Thursday, reactivating an anti-abortion law passed in 1925, when Texas had fewer than 5 million mostly white residents.
The majority of voters today who support women’s access to abortion in one form or another have been reminded yet again of the consequences of the gerrymandering that has led the state’s elected Republican leaders to look little like to the nearly 30 million people they are supposed to represent.
The result: Women and even underage girls who are pregnant by a rapist, whether a stranger or a relative, will now have to live with the consequences or be prosecuted as criminals. Children born to women who are unwilling or unable to raise them adequately will add to the misfortunes of the state, while irresponsible men are not held accountable. Even pregnant women with life-threatening conditions might find that hospitals and doctors fear the consequences of providing them with essential medical services.
Listen or read this July 26 article from a National Public Radio reporter about the plight of Elizabeth and James Weller in Houston after her 18-week pregnancy became a medical nightmare.
How did we get to this point where desperate women have to leave the state or even the country to get abortions, while medical and public health professionals in Texas feel targeted by conservative politicians who don’t understand really the medical complexities involved?
The answer, I believe, lies in a 5-4 decision by a divided Supreme Court in 2019 in which Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that political gerrymandering is beyond federal judicial review. For me, the decision undermined participatory democracy. This allowed Republicans in Texas to abandon any pretense of governing from the center or sharing power in an increasingly diverse state.
Here in Texas, the difference between the racial, ethnic and gender profile of the population and that of the Texas legislature has never been so pronounced, according to demographers.
With effective control over how political lines are drawn, Gov. Greg Abbott and the Republican majorities that control the Texas House and Senate do not claim to represent all Texans. The political rhetoric of the state’s top elected leaders routinely vilifies Democrats.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who kicked off a campaign bus tour from Texas to the Alamo last week, said in a press release, “Voters are engaged and excited about this 2022 election. Democrats wail and scoff, perpetuating the lie that it’s hard to vote in Texas, I predict another turnout record.
What Patrick didn’t mention is that he and other Republican lawmakers passed one of the nation’s most restrictive laws last September limiting how and when voters can vote, targeting election administrators in particular. of major cities that have innovated during the pandemic to grow safe voting choices for citizens.
Texans of color accounted for 95% of the US Census’ robust 16.1% population growth from 2010 to 2020. The non-Hispanic white population grew from 45% in 2010 to 39.8% in 2020, while the Hispanic population reached virtual parity at 39.3%.
Gerrymandered districts keep conservative white males in power and allow conservative rural and suburban voters to overwhelm the more liberal and diverse urban voters who account for most of the state’s population growth. This helps explain why a majority of citizens who support some form of abortion were ignored by the state’s white, Republican-dominated male elected officials after they passed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in the world. country.
The new law offers a $10,000 bounty to private citizens who successfully track down vulnerable women and medical professionals engaged in an abortion procedure. This is widely seen as a political stunt since access to abortion in the state has been virtually eliminated. Healthcare professionals risk felony prosecution and the loss of their licenses and livelihoods if they are seen breaking the law.
Abbott enthusiastically signed the bill last September, long before a divided U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
How will women vote in November? Abbott’s Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke is making the Texas abortion ban the centerpiece of his current statewide tour. Polls show the Abbott-O’Rourke race and Patrick’s race against Democratic challenger Mike Collier have tightened. Abbott still leads O’Rourke by seven points, while another poll shows just five percentage points separating Patrick and Collier.
Will Texas women angry at the loss of their reproductive rights surprise pollsters and incumbents and prove decisive in November? Campaigns will kick into high gear after the Labor Day holiday. That leaves two months before Texans — all Texans — learn the answer.