Texas primary election: Abortion is out of the spotlight

AUSTIN (Texas) -- The right to abortion in the United States is in question. But one thing was clear from the beginning of 2022: This issue would dominate America's midterm elections.

Texas primary election: Abortion is out of the spotlight

Texas primary election: Abortion is out of the spotlight

AUSTIN (Texas) -- The right to abortion in the United States is in question. But one thing was clear from the beginning of 2022: This issue would dominate America's midterm elections.

However, that was not the case in Texas.

Campaign ads focusing on abortion access are not flooding the airwaves. Candidates spend more time discussing COVID-19, immigration, and reliability of the power grid. There are rallies and events that take place without any mention of Texas' restrictive abortion laws. It has been in effect for several months.

Early voting for the March 1 primary is already underway in Texas. This represents a sharp shift from last fall's law banning abortions within six weeks of pregnancy. The news made national headlines all across the country. Republican legislators in other states quickly proposed copycat measures and President Joe Biden called the law "constitutional chaos". The change disappointed supporters of abortion rights who feel that the months of court defeats have taken a toll on them at a time where a full press is still required. Some worry that many candidates, especially Democrats, don't know how effective they can campaign on abortion despite the chaos of last fall.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health in Texas, stated, "It's an issue that affects the whole community, it's also a public health problem, and I think it's like super blind not to talk about it."

It is clear that both Republican and Democratic candidates in Texas have decided other issues are more important than the economy, schools, and health care.

Many believe that the abortion issue will be back in the forefront of the general election campaign. Candidates will face the opposing party, rather than their own like-minded rivals, after the Supreme Court decides whether or not to weaken Roe v. Wade, which guarantees the right to an abortion. It is expected that the court will make a decision in June on a crucial abortion case.

The Texas race for 2022 has shown cracks in the relationship between the Texas law regarding abortion rights and politics. Recent data has shown that abortions in Texas declined by 60% in the first month following the restriction's implementation.

This month, more than 100 people gathered in rural Kendall County to witness a forum featuring candidates for Texas House seats. It was held outside San Antonio.

It was not mentioned by any of the candidates, nor was it asked by anyone in the audience.

Laura Bray, chair of the local Democratic Party, stated that there was 45 minutes left for it to come up.

Bray stated that Democrats deliberately avoid discussing abortion in her county, where Donald Trump won by three to one in 2020. This is because they don't want to turn off Republican voters who they are trying win.

According to a December poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, Texas campaigns that have received the most attention align with national surveys. While Democratic voters are more inclined to support reproductive rights, a wide range of issues, from gun control to economics, rank higher according to a December poll.

Democrats across the country have made abortion a central part of the midterm elections. They claim that it can help energize their base in a time when they are losing their narrow majority in Congress. According to the conventional wisdom, abortion is more motivating for Republicans. But even Gov. Greg Abbott's campaign for a third term was not well-publicized. He also signed the law without much support from other GOP states, where copycats have stalled.

Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster, stated that abortion has not been a top issue for voters. "It is always overwhelmed by the economy and the pandemic in our day and age."

According to polling, relatively few Americans would like Roe to be overturned. Ayres claims that the Texas law is particularly problematic. It leaves enforcement up to private citizens who can collect $10,000 and more, which critics call a bounty.

He said, "I cannot imagine many Republicans backing that."

The issue is not an afterthought in any Texas race, it's certain. One of the most prominent is Democrat U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. He is one of the most conservative members his party and has voted against abortion access. He is fighting again against progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros.

NARAL, the largest national abortion rights group, has sent staff to the district in the hopes of delivering a major victory for advocates and starting the 2022 election cycle.

Cisneros, an immigrant lawyer, stated that she isn't sure if her position on abortion rights will swing the race.

During a break in between knocking on doors, she stated that "We're no single-issue campaign." She was speaking to people from the South Texas district which stretches over 150 miles from San Antonio to Texas border. "When we talk to voters, it's not just one thing."

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