Cuellar condemned the possibility that the Supreme Court would overturn the nearly 50-year-old decision that established an individual right to procure an abortion.
“Let me be clear about the leaked opinion of the potential SCOTUS ruling, it is not based on precedent and is not incremental in nature,” Cuellar said. “It will further divide the country during these already divisive times but let us wait until the final ruling.”
Referencing his Catholic beliefs, the congressman said he is opposed to abortion but does not support “an outright ban.”
“My faith will not allow me to support a ruling that would criminalize teenage victims of rape and incest. That same faith will not allow me to support a ruling that would make a mother choose between her life and her child’s,” Cuellar said.
“Additionally, my faith does not allow me to support extreme positions such as late term or partial birth abortions. My faith is clear: abortion must be rare & safe.”
Other Democrats in Texas have also expressed their opposition to the reversal of Roe.
While the reversal of Roe would not in itself create a ban on abortion, Texas is among many states that have laws in place prohibiting or restricting abortion in the event that the Roe is overruled.
Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a law, House Bill 1280, that makes abortion a criminal act effective on the 30th day after Roe is overturned.
If the decision is reversed, anyone who performs an abortion in Texas will be guilty of a first-degree felony, which is punishable by a minimum of five years or a maximum of 99 years or life in prison and a $10,000 fine. The act also provides for civil liability.
The law, titled the Human Life Protection Act of 2021, does not apply to the mother of the unborn child, only the person who commits the abortion. It also makes an exception that allows physicians to perform an abortion to save the life of the mother or prevent “substantial impairment of a major bodily function.” The doctor would have to make all efforts to preserve the life of the unborn child without endangering the mother.
On Monday, POLITICO published a draft of an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito that would overturn Roe and return the question of the legality of abortion to state legislatures. The outlet had obtained it from an anonymous source.
The next day, Chief Justice John Roberts released a statement indicating that he has ordered an investigation of the leak by the marshal of the court.
“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the Court will not be affected in any way,” Roberts said.
“We at the Court are blessed to have a workforce – permanent employees and law clerks alike – intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law. Court employees have an exemplary and important tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process and upholding the trust of the Court. This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here.”
Cuellar is facing a politically hazardous reelection campaign as South Texas voters become more favorable to Republican candidates.
The congressman’s comments also reflect a popular position in the U.S. — that abortion ought to be limited but not entirely illegal.
Cuellar is currently defending his seat in a Democratic runoff with progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros, who received 47 percent of the vote in the primary compared to the congressman’s 49 percent.
Meanwhile, the winner of the Republican nomination will be decided by a runoff between Cassy Garcia, who won 26 percent of the vote on primary day, and Sandra Whitten, who received 18 percent.
Republican National Committee Spokesperson Macarena Martinez commented in a statement on Tuesday, “Henry Cuellar has tried to toe the line on abortion for far too long. South Texans are pro-life, and Cuellar can no longer straddle the fence as Democrats have embraced radical abortion policies.”
A copy of the Human Life Protection Act of 2021 can be found below.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."