Roe v. Wade overturn could help Dems, Beto

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In one of those occasional unexpected pairings of events that can make politics both interesting and unpredictable, the campaign of Democrat Beto O’Rourke to upset Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s bid for a third term just got a big boost.

It involves the history of Democratic Texas governors of Texas, and the sudden change that put abortion rights as a major issue back on the front burner of state and national politics.

The first occurrence was the announcement April 25 of the hiring of Cecile Richards as national fundraising chair the for O’Rourke’s campaign. Richards, 64, is the eldest daughter of the late Ann Richards, who in 1990 became the last Democrat to be elected governor of Texas.

Gov. Richards was beaten for re-election in 1994 by Republican presidential son George W. Bush.

Cecile Richards also was the president of The Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund from 2006 to 2018. The organization is a major national voice in the fight for a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

The second big factor was the leaking May 2 of a first draft of a Supreme Court opinion, written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade court ruling. It has been the linchpin of protecting women’s rights of choice in whether or not to have an abortion.

The fact that Richards was hired for her heritage, her organizing for a major issue, her encyclopedic knowledge of the discussion of the ins and outs of the abortion issue, were on display during an interview on the Lawrence O’Donnell TV show.

Speaking of male politicians and other officials, Richards said, “…(T)hese are people who are never going to face an unintended pregnancy, a troubled pregnancy, a dangerous pregnancy, making rules about our lives.

“Putting that aside, as you can imagine right now it is total chaos in America. In Texas, where of course abortion has been banned, basically, except for before six weeks for months now, the stories that I’m hearing on the ground of what health care providers are dealing with are heartbreaking.

“Women who are trying or seeking to end a pregnancy who have never been on an airplane, who are piling their children and maybe their friend in a car, driving to Colorado, finding a place to stay overnight.

“A young woman that had just called a clinic who in Spanish said she could not leave the state because she would lose her job.

“We know that these abortion restrictions and bans are falling hardest on people with low incomes, women with low incomes who have no other resources. You probably know this, but if this, if Roe is in fact overturned as we believe now it will be, the Texas law is going to get much, much worse.

“You are not going to be able to get any abortion in Texas if you are the victim of rape, if you are the victim of incest, if you have a medically complicated pregnancy, if you have a pregnancy where the fetus has problems that are incompatible with life.

“It is now going to allow us to jail doctors for as long as life imprisonment,” Richards

“So, just begin to imagine… and I hope, I think that American people are beginning to imagine what it looks like when you are punishing women and you are jailing doctors.

“That is what the Republican party has drawn out, that is what they are passing across the country,” Richards said. “And if this decision holds, if this decision stands, 37 million women of childbearing age in this country will no longer have access to safe and legal abortion.”

Republican Gov. Abbott, who is adamantly anti-abortion, and who signed an anti abortion bill last year considered probably the toughest in the country, takes comfort from his first election for governor in 2014.

“My first election for governor was a referendum on the issue of abortion,” Abbott said. “[Wendy Davis] was hailed as the abortion savior, but she lost to me by 20 percentage points. The same fate will meet with Beto on the campaign trail, who is even worse on the abortion issue than Wendy Davis was.”

Davis disputed that at a news conference with O’Rourke on Thursday morning, May 5, in Austin, arguing most voters did not truly know Abbott in 2014 and “defaulted to their Republican voting habit.”

Plus, she added, that was back when voters assumed Roe v. Wade would remain a “backstop” to any abortion restrictions in Texas.

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