The ramifications of the Supreme Court draft opinion on the Roe v. Wade decision continue in Texas. The Lone Star State has begun to prepare for the moment the Supreme Court may overturn abortion. Texas has a “trigger law” in effect that would automatically make performing an abortion a felony 30 days after the decision if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Some Texas Republicans are now signaling that the state’s foster care, adoption, and social safety net programs need strengthening in preparation for that moment.
“It only makes sense,” Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) told The Texas Tribune. “The dog’s caught the car now.”
Toth said if abortion is outlawed in the state, Republicans in the Texas House will prioritize expanding social programs to help pregnant women and their children.
“Now more than ever, the pro-life community and legislators need to step up and make sure we help out women in a crisis pregnancy,” he said. “It means prenatal care, helping them stay in school. It means making sure that we help women once the baby is born. It means adoption services.”
Toth called expanding social safety nets a “moral response” to the outlawing of abortions in the state.
State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) said he would support increasing funds for social safety net programs for pregnant women and young children.
“We have to now work really hard to help these new moms and these new babies,” said Capriglione, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “I’m going to be pushing for it.”
He said he would push for Medicaid coverage for low-income new mothers to be increased. Last year the Texas Legislature increased that coverage from 60 days to six months.
House lawmakers had taken the advice of the state’s maternal mortality task force and agreed to extend it to one year, but the final version of the bill that passed the State Senate brought the coverage down to six months.
State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) defended the shorter extension of six months as opposed to a year.
“The media has portrayed our version of this as cutting it from 12 [months] to six,” said Kolkhorst. “I want to make sure that we clarify that we are adding four months, and we will become one of the first states in the nation to extend it beyond two months.”
Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised the Supreme Court draft’s position in a statement last Tuesday.
“We will also continue to strengthen adoption programs in Texas and support families who welcome adopted children into their loving homes,” said Patrick. “Texas has led the way to protect innocent life in the womb, and we will continue to do so moving forward in the Texas Senate.”
Joe Pojman, executive director of the anti-abortion group Texas Alliance for Life, said he would push lawmakers to continue to increase funding for the Alternative to Abortions (ATA) program.
The Legislature allocated $100 million to the program for this two-year budget cycle. ATA pays a network of nonprofits for counseling, prenatal nutrition, newborn care classes, and the provision of baby items.
Pojman said lawmakers need to promote the program better, so more pregnant people know about it and have access to it.
“For a lot of women who find themselves pregnant, they don’t even know that those exist,” he added.
According to Renée Cross of the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston, Republicans have good reason to promote how they will better support pregnant people and mothers if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Recent polls show the number of Texas voters who support an outright abortion ban is low.
A University of Texas at Austin poll released last month showed that just 15% of respondents said they support a ban on all abortions, while 28% said abortion should only be allowed in the case of rape, incest, or when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. Abortion should always be allowed as a matter of personal choice, according to 39% of respondents, and 11% said abortion should be permitted for additional reasons beyond rape, incest, and danger to the mother.
Cross noted that what is more troubling for Republicans on the ballot, including Governor Greg Abbott, is that 42% of self-identified independents polled said they believe abortion should always be allowed as a matter of personal choice. In addition, 13% said the procedure should be permitted for reasons other than only rape, incest, and danger to the woman.
Only 11% of self-identified independents said abortion should never be allowed, while 23% said the procedure should only be allowed in the case of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger.
“The Republican Party has been able to rely often on independent voters, but not on this issue,” Cross said. “We saw some Republican voters, particularly suburban women, not vote for President Trump in 2020. A lot of those women will probably think twice about voting for Gov. Abbott.”