87th LegislatureTexas Democrats Respond to Leaked Supreme Court Opinion Repudiating Roe v. Wade

State Rep. Donna Howard believes the parties may find a common goal in increasing funding for pregnancy healthcare.
May 3, 2022
After a bombshell Politico report revealed that a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court currently supports reversing the Roe v. Wade decision, Texas Democrats began discussing how to respond to the unraveling of court precedent that began with a Texas case 50 years ago.

Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed that Politico released an authentic draft opinion, representing the majority of the court, which repudiates Roe and says states should regain the authority to regulate abortion before the point of fetal viability.

Although similar leaks have occurred before, this is reportedly the first time in the modern history of the court that a draft opinion made it to the public while a case was pending.

State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), chair of the Texas Women’s Health Caucus, said she has been emphasizing to the public that the leaked opinion does not change the legal landscape of abortion access in Texas.

“I am obviously, as you would expect, concerned about what the draft says and what the implications might be here. But the main thing that I am focused on right now is trying to help people understand that abortion is still legal in Texas up to about six weeks gestation, and it will continue to be until or if an opinion is rendered that overturns Roe v. Wade, and the trigger law would go into effect thirty days after that,” Howard said.

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“So, up until that time, if that happens, abortion is still legal in Texas and in the United States.”

In addition to the Texas Heartbeat Act — which authorizes lawsuits against anybody that performs or aids the abortion of an unborn child with a detectable pulse, a development that takes place at around six weeks of gestation — Texas also passed a law last year that would impose criminal and civil penalties on anybody besides the mother herself that performs an elective abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Specifically, the “trigger ban” would make it a felony to perform or induce any abortion not meant to save the mother from death or serious bodily impairment.

The text of that law also notes that Texas has never repealed the same statutes at the center of the Roe lawsuit. Those statutes outlaw elective abortions and “furnishing the means” for procuring them. The Texas Heartbeat Act makes the same observation.

Howard said an increase in pregnancies that would follow the enforcement of an abortion ban in Texas would task the legislature with increasing funding for pregnancy healthcare.

“We are still the state with the highest maternal morbidity and mortality of any state in the nation. Over half of our births are Medicaid births. If we end up having forced pregnancies, and end up having a larger number of children born in this state, which seems to be the logical outcome of this, then it will be an increase among those of limited resources primarily because if and when abortion is illegal in Texas, those that have the resources will be able to travel outside the state,” Howard said.

“And where I would go with this is, hopefully, to expand on the things that we’ve already had some work on in a bipartisan fashion here to ensure that we have greater healthcare coverage for the entire perinatal period, not just after somebody gets pregnant. And then we expand it from two months postpartum to six, but that has not been put in place yet. But we need to have greater healthcare coverage for those who are in the perinatal period who could become pregnant so that they are in the healthiest position to have a healthy pregnancy.”

Howard is not alone. State Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) harked back to the Texas lawsuit that led to the seminal Supreme Court case, calling for Democrats to regain political control over the state.

“Texas is the key. Roe v Wade was won by a Texas lawyer. 50 years later Texas Republicans shocked the nation by virtually banning abortion. Flipping Texas is key to winning the presidency, changing the court, overcoming the filibuster, and protecting the rights of all Americans,” Talarico wrote.

In a press release, Talarico said the leaked opinion prompted him to donate $10,000 each to Beto O’Rourke’s campaign for governor and a left-leaning lobbying group called Annie’s List.

State Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio) released a statement decrying the leaked draft.

“Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country, and some of the worst health outcomes for mothers in the developed world. After the recent 87th Legislative Session, Texas also has among the most restrictive abortion regimes in the entire country,” Minjarez stated.

“If this decision is adopted, survivors of rape or incest will be forced to carry to term. Women with extreme health risks will face the very real prospect of death, regardless of the ultimate viability of her child. Everyday women will have a stark choice between death, a back-alley abortion, or potential felony prosecution for an innocent miscarriage.”


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.