In Roe v. Wade (1973), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman's right to decide whether to have an abortion (privacy right; due process clause of the 14th Amendment). Still, the Court ruled that the right to an abortion was not absolute, stating that there was a “compelling state interest” in balancing the competing interests between a woman's health and the potential life of her fetus. To that end, the Roe v. Wade ruling set up a framework in which an abortion was allowed for any reason during the first trimester of pregnancy (0 - 13 weeks), allowed state legislatures to regulate abortions for the "preservation and protection of maternal health" during the second trimester (14 - 26 weeks), and allowed states to further regulate, or even prohibit, abortions during the third trimester (27 - 40 weeks), except in cases involving the health or life of the mother. Of note, with advancements in medical capabilities, a fetus can become viable (survive outside the womb) at approximately 23 weeks.
Over the past 49 years, the Supreme Court often clarified parts of the Roe v. Wade ruling, but they never completely overturned it... until last month. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022), the Supreme Court's majority struck down Roe v. Wade, ruling that the U.S. Constitution does not confer the right to an abortion. In Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion, he wrote, "We end this opinion where we began. Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives." With Roe overturned, the regulation of abortions now falls to the individual state legislatures and to the United States Congress. Unfortunately, even with a slim majority in Congress, Democrats lack the internal consensus needed to codify a woman's right to an abortion.
The Dobbs ruling has caused outrage among many demographic groups and pushed abortion to the forefront of the upcoming election. Now, according to many national polls, the majority of Americans are generally "pro-choice" and supported the Roe v. Wade decision. Given the national opinion polls, being pro-choice and supporting the right to an abortion should be a winning issue for our local Democratic candidates, right? Well, perhaps...
Our local Democratic candidates usually receive strong support from the Hispanic community, which makes up the largest potential voter group in Harris County. Still, the majority of Hispanics are Catholics and the Catholic Church, along with Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, Mormons, and many other religions, do not support abortions. These "pro-life" groups view abortion as the murdering of an unborn child. Given that viewpoint, it is possible that abortion could become a wedge issue that separates religious voters, including those in our traditional Democratic base, from our pro-choice candidates. In 2020, Republicans were able to make significant gains in Hispanic (and other) communities by focusing on traditional family values, the economy, border security, education, healthcare, and public safety issues. Now, Republicans could use the abortion issue to make even more gains in the Hispanic community. While Democratic Party leaders may downplay this possibility, we urge them to not underestimate how much a person's faith and religious beliefs can influence their vote, especially when other issues (violent crime, inflation, corruption scandals, price of gas, etc.) are undermining support for the Democratic Party.
As moderate Democrats, we are pro-choice, but with common-sense restrictions. We believe that a woman should have the right to choose whether to have an abortion for any reason during the first trimester of her pregnancy. During the second trimester, with the fetus more developed, an abortion should only be an option in cases involving rape, incest, severe fetus defect, or when the woman's life is in jeopardy. We do not support abortions once a healthy fetus has become viable and can survive outside the womb (~23 weeks). We also believe any civil or criminal laws created to enforce abortion regulations should be directed at the abortion service providers, not pregnant women. We believe our position on abortion is consistent with the reasoning in the Roe v. Wade ruling and reflects the general opinion of the majority of Americans. Still, we are not confident that abortion is a winning election issue in Harris County. Abortion is a complex issue that rightfully provokes strong emotions, opinions, and religious beliefs. We urge our local Democratic candidates to actively engage with the Hispanic community on this issue and not take their votes for granted.
For more on this issue, please click on the links below:
For some national polling data on abortion, please click on the links below:
UPDATE 7/12/22: On 7/8/22, President Biden signed an Executive Order aimed at protecting a woman's access to an abortion. According to CNN, "The executive order attempts to safeguard access to medication abortion and emergency contraception, protect patient privacy, launch public education efforts as well as bolster the security of and the legal options available to those seeking and providing abortion services." In reality, President Biden's Executive Order is really quite limited since he doesn't have the authority to reinstate the right to an abortion. Given the Dobbs ruling and the lack of consensus among Democratic lawmakers, this Executive Order is realistically the best pro-choice advocates could achieve (for now). For more, please click on the link below:
UPDATE 8/25/22: The Texas trigger law went into effect, effectively outlawing almost all abortions in Texas (with both criminal and civil penalties for doctors). The law does not even allow an abortion in the case of rape or incest. To his credit, Beto O'Rourke is attacking Republicans in general, and Governor Greg Abbott in particular, on this issue. The more extreme Republicans become, the easier it is for Democrats to gain more public support (and votes).
For more on this new law, please click on the link below:
UPDATE 7/4/23: According to a John Hopkins study, it appears Texas' restrictive abortion law has already resulted in nearly 10,000 more babies being born (see media link below).
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