AUSTIN — Texas’ Republican leaders were quick to praise the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial ruling on Friday that overturned the right to an abortion and returned the decision to the states, claiming abortions are immediately illegal.
Pro-choice advocates, while angered, shifted sights to November.
The ruling comes even as a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in May found that 71% of U.S. respondents, including 60% of Republicans, said they believed the decision to terminate a pregnancy should be left to a woman and her doctor, with just 15% saying it should be regulated by the government.
In separate statements, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, both Republicans, reaffirmed that under their leadership, the state will remain “pro-life” while also promising to help expecting parents who may have otherwise chosen an abortion.
Separately, Paxton issued an advisory Friday stating that all abortions in Texas would be deemed illegal “immediately,” due to pre-Roe laws that remain on the books, as they were never repealed by the Texas Legislature. That interpretation of the law bypasses the so-called “trigger law” passed by the state legislature last year that would make abortions illegal 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Paxton also said some prosecutors may choose to immediately pursue criminal charges based on violations of those statutes, meaning abortion providers could be criminally liable for providing abortions starting Friday.
“Today, the question of abortion returns to the states. And in Texas, that question has already been answered: abortion is illegal here,” Paxton said. “I look forward to defending the pro-life laws of Texas and the lives of all unborn children moving forward.”
The Texas Tribune reported late Friday afternoon that clinics and abortion funds in the state are ceasing services now because Paxton and some anti-abortion activists are arguing that state laws that banned abortion before Roe v. Wade — that were never repealed — could now be in effect in Texas.
Abortion access advocates also highlighted what the ruling could mean for Lone Star State. The ACLU of Texas estimates the decision will impact six million Texans and have “deadly consequences” falling predominantly on Black women and other people of color.
A University of Colorado study found that banning abortion nationwide would lead to a 21% increase in the number of pregnancy-related deaths overall and a 33% increase among Black women. Texas has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, estimated at 14.6 per 100,000 live births; for Black women, it is 27.8 per 100,000.
In his majority opinion, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said because a right to an abortion is not explicitly protected in the Constitution, previous precedent established by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey have no standing. Instead, “the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” he said.
Following the decision, abortion access advocates and candidates now say they are looking toward November, where all of the Texas’ top leaders are on the ballot.
Gubernatorial candidate and Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke said in a Tweet that he will “always fight for a woman’s freedom to make her own decisions about her own body, health care, and future,” separately stating: “We will overcome this decision in Texas by winning political power.”
The ACLU of Texas called the decision a “shameful ruling,” while Texas Democratic Party Co-Executive Director Hannah Roe Beck said the SCOTUS decision has made Texas “exponentially more dangerous with the activation of this dystopian and extremist law.”
“The new reality is unacceptable, and we know it will fall hardest on people of color in Texas who already face racial disparities in healthcare, especially Black mothers,” said Oni Blair, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, in a statement. “We will hold politicians accountable in courthouses and statehouses, at the ballot box, and through protests in the streets.”
Abbott promised to prioritize supporting women's healthcare and expectant mothers, highlighting the state’s Alternatives to Abortion program, for which legislators earmarked $100 million recently. The program provides counseling, material assistance and social services, among other things, for up to three years after birth. The state budget accounts for helping about 150,000 women each year, proponents state.
“Texas will always fight for the innocent unborn, and I will continue working with the Texas legislature and all Texans to save every child from the ravages of abortion and help our expectant mothers in need,” Abbott said in a statement.
Texas Alliance for Life Executive Director Joe Pojman said he is ecstatic about the decision and also supports efforts to prop up resources to help women carry pregnancies to term.
“Our goal continues to be to build a society where abortion is unthinkable, and women with unplanned pregnancies take full advantage of the vast resources available to them,” Pojman said in a statement.