Texas Republicans cheer end of Roe v. Wade while Democrats vow to fight back in November

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on April 26, 2022. (Eric Lee For The Texas Tribune, Eric Lee For The Texas Tribune)

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Texas Republican leaders celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday as Democrats vowed to fight back at the ballot box.

The landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision returned the issue of abortion access to the states, and due to a “trigger law” in Texas, the state will ban all abortions from the moment of fertilizations starting 30 days from the court’s issuance of a judgment, which typically comes about a month or so after the opinion.

Attorney General Ken Paxton declared on Twitter that abortion is “now illegal in Texas” and said he would be closing his office and “making it an annual holiday.” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said the reversal of Roe v. Wade is “nothing short of a massive victory for life, and it will save the lives of millions of innocent babies.” And Texas GOP Chair Matt Rinaldi called it a “historic day which Republicans and Pro-Life advocates have waited for a generation.”

[U.S. Supreme Court rules there’s no right to abortion, setting up Texas ban]

Democrats were livid — and acknowledged their best bet to restore abortion access in Texas is to beat Republicans in November.

“The only way to overcome today’s decision is to win this race for governor,” Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee for governor, said in a statement. He later announced he would host a "rally for reproductive freedom" Sunday in Austin.

The GOP governor, Greg Abbott, issued a statement that was more understated than some in his party, saying the high court “correctly overturned Roe v. Wade and reinstated the right of states to protect innocent, unborn children.”

The Texas Democratic Party’s co-executive director, Hannah Roe Beck, said in a statement that the decision is a “blaring five-alarm call to action” for November. Paxton’s Democratic opponent, Rochelle Garza, promised that if elected, she “will work to restore abortion access and reproductive freedom.”

“This fall, Roe is on the ballot,” President Joe Biden said in a White House speech.

While O’Rourke has run a competitive race against Abbott, Democrats have limited opportunities to channel their energy down-ballot in November after Republicans redrew districts last year to shore up their majorities. The one major exception is South Texas, which Republicans are newly targeting this fall.

New U.S. Rep. Mayra Flores, a Republican from the Rio Grande Valley who won a special election earlier this month, did not hesitate to celebrate the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“Honestly, this is a dream come true for me, for South Texas,” Flores said on Fox News. “In South Texas, we’re pro-life — somos pro-vida — so this was a big win for us and South Texas, but also for our country.”

Michelle Vallejo, a Democratic candidate in another battleground congressional district in South Texas, issued a statement reminding voters she is the “only pro-choice candidate in this race.” She said the country needs “representatives that will codify Roe V. Wade and advocate every single day for our right to choose.”

While Democrats largely talked up the new stakes for the November election, some progressives offered ideas for what Democrats could do in the nearer term. Greg Casar, the Democratic nominee for the 35th Congressional District, called for “immediate action.”

“We must immediately direct public funds and private donations to help people get abortion care outside of Texas, beginning in one month,” Casar said in a statement. “We must push all district attorneys and police departments to not arrest or prosecute Texans under these draconian anti-abortion laws. And we must fight like hell to expand the Supreme Court and pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.”

Some conservatives in the Texas Legislature have already signaled they will prioritize legislation next year to block efforts to circumvent the state’s imminent abortion ban. State Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, quickly responded to Casar’s proposals on Twitter, saying, “We will not allow this in Texas.”

“The left will surely fight to keep the abortion industry alive in Texas, but they will fail,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement.

By Friday afternoon, the chair and vice chair of the Texas Democratic Party had sent a letter to Democratic sheriffs, district attorneys and other local officials urging them not to enforce Texas' abortion restrictions after the fall of Roe v. Wade.

"No matter what the United States Supreme Court says: abortion is a valid, safe, and important healthcare procedure that should never be restricted by any power or authority," the letter said.

Garza, the Democrat running for attorney general, argued the decision carries especially high stakes for her race. The former lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union — whose most high-profile work was on abortion rights — said in an interview that the attorney general’s office will be the “last stand for reproductive freedom in Texas.”

“Choosing to litigate or not litigate is a very powerful thing that the office holds,” Garza said. “I as attorney general will not join in any sort of prosecution of people seeking access to abortion care.”

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