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House Democrats, galvanized by Texas ban, vote to legalize abortion nationwide

Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Even when Democrats have controlled the House in recent decades, there were still dozens of rank-and-file Democrats who opposed abortion, discouraging Democratic leaders from holding votes on the issue. The 2018 election marked a noticeable increase in the number of Democrats from politically contentious swing districts who leaned into abortion in their campaigns.

"It's not a coincidence that we've seen more Democrats being comfortable discussing abortion rights as we've seen more women be elected," said Kristen Hernandez, a spokeswoman for EMILY's List, a group that supports Democratic women who back abortion rights.

Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Texas, who represents the Houston-area seat once held by former President George H.W. Bush, started her 2018 campaign with an ad featuring the Planned Parenthood facility where she, as a high school volunteer, tried to block antiabortion protesters.

"I'm very comfortable talking about it because I feel like our voice has not been heard," Fletcher said in an interview. "Abortion has become a wedge issue that's used to win elections instead of to govern responsibility and to acknowledge the real and fundamental rights of every person in this country to define our own destiny."

Abortion rights supporters expect the drumbeat to get only louder ahead of the 2022 midterm election, especially if the Supreme Court issues a high-profile abortion decision next summer.

"Younger generations have just taken for granted that birth control and abortion were part of the continuation of women's healthcare," said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. "This is so stark and egregious that my daughter's generation has woken up and realized that the freedoms they have enjoyed are now going to be taken away from them by a bunch of politicians."

 

Although abortion rights supporters have been raising alarm bells about the growing threat to access for years, particularly as former President Donald Trump's appointees were confirmed to the Supreme Court, the Texas decision startled them — a sentiment that could carry over to the ballot box next year.

"This is something that women see happening to them right now and are willing to get engaged to make sure that they're protected," said Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., another potentially vulnerable Democrat who sees no political downside to the vote.

A small number of Republicans, including Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, have distanced themselves from the private citizens' role of Texas' law, as well as the lack of an exception for cases of rape and incest, raising questions of whether the law will be a political liability for some Republican candidates in the midterm.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an advocacy group that opposes abortion, argues that Texas' law will be forgotten as soon as the Supreme Court rules on a separate abortion case out of Mississippi over a 15-week abortion ban. In December, the court will hear arguments in the case, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization, and a ruling would be expected by June.

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