More than 1.2 million Texans have taken recent action on pro-choice advocacy in the midterm elections, according to Planned Parenthood of Texas.
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These actions include one or more of the following: registering to vote in the midterms, election canvassing, attending rallies, signing local petitions, and calling on elected officials to express their support for abortion.
Some 40% of Planned Parenthood supporters nationwide have already voted as of November 3rd and Texas abortion advocates are hoping that the support is enough to change the policy discussion around abortion in the state.
“We have been organizing and mobilizing in South Texas for over a decade, with a really consistent presence to help support the local grassroots infrastructure to really flourish,” Dyana Limon-Mercado, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes (PPTV), told State of Reform. “We’ve seen it become really robust in the last 3 or 4 years with some key political shifts down there in South Texas.
We’ve seen a city council try to attempt to take up a local abortion ban that was quickly shut down by local grassroots organizing. We’ve seen a district attorney who attempted to file charges and criminalize a woman for seeking abortion and because of grassroots community pressure that was taken down. We saw some key shifts in state senatorial races where there was previously an anti-choice, Democratic senator who was elected, and then we now have a strong pro-choice Democratic candidate in that race who was actively running on this issue as well, also a Latina.”
In its most recent polling, PPTV found that in the wake of the Dobbs decision in June, 63% of Latinas in South Texas favor of candidates who support access to abortion. Abortion rights and gun safety were the 2 most important issues for Latina respondents in these midterms.
Texas advocacy groups say the state has a strong infrastructure and coalition around mobilizing efforts since the ban was issued last September. Trust Respect Access, main statewide coalition of abortion funds, has been taking different approaches to avoid violating the state’s abortion ban, which makes nearly all abortions in the state felony crimes. Doctors administering the procedure could face life in prison and fines up to $100,000.
These funds turned their attention to electoral work after the state’s trigger law went into effect, with some using their organizational status to engage in political activities.
“[Working in post-Roe conditions for months] just gave us the chance to absorb all of the national support and attention that was turned toward us and keep mobilizing people,” said Caroline Duble, Political Director for Avow Texas.
Election watchers are focused on the key race for State Attorney General, where the challenger to incumbent Ken Paxton, Rochelle Garza, a South Texas Latina, has been working closely with abortion groups and positioning herself as a pro-family and reproductive health advocate.
Recent polls show Paxton with a 2-percentage point lead over Garza heading into the final week.
Key races in Harris County are also seen as crucial in the abortion fight, including the race for County Judge. Abortion groups have thrown their support behind the Democratic candidate Lina Hidalgo.
— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) November 6, 2022
On Sunday, the First Lady Jill Biden was in Houston to lend support to Hidalgo and others including pro-choice candidates for state Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Al Green, and Sylvia Garcia ahead of election day. Democrats have been campaigning heavily on abortion this year to rally support from voters and women.
“When the Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion for the first time in American history, the Supreme Court took away a right which they had once guaranteed,” Limon-Mercado said. “It’s important for people to remember that sense of anger and disbelief and urgency that they felt in September, that there are real opportunities to change that outcome here on the ground in Texas to restore some access to care … The politics may not be for everybody all the time. But if we have perfect participation, that is what will get us to the results that can ensure a fair democracy for everybody.”