AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Tuesday, Democratic candidate for governor Beto O’Rourke held a rally near downtown Austin at the Long Center for the Performing Arts to kick off the last week of his 49-day campaign tour.
It came the same day as a new ad is launching on TV across the state – clipping two segments of Gov. Greg Abbott answering questions about the state’s abortion laws.
The near-complete ban went into effect last month, criminalizing abortions with some exceptions when the mother’s life is at risk, but none for rape or incest victims.
When the bill was passed, a reporter asked the governor, “Why force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term?”
Gov. Abbott replied then, “Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas.”
This week, though, on KXAS in Dallas, he gave a different answer when asked about the lack of exceptions in the law.
“For the mother, though, that is a victim of rape or incest and would like to have an abortion, I mean, what do you say to her?” the reporter asked.
“They can get the Plan B pill,” the commercial shows Abbott answering.
The governor’s campaign spokesperson added more context to that answer on Tuesday to KXAN, stating in part, “We urge any victim of rape to get medical help immediately. The medical care offered at hospitals and emergency rooms includes access to Plan B medication that can prevent pregnancy.”
Still, Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood and daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, said his answers don’t suffice.
“Even though now in the state of Texas, if you’re a survivor of rape or incest, you cannot get access to safe and legal abortion. And his solution was to round up all the rapists. I have seen absolutely no evidence that Greg Abbott is doing anything to reduce the incidences of rape in this state, or to help do anything to prevent future occurrences. It’s outrageous,” Richards said.
That’s part of why she’s backing O’Rourke in the race. She said she’s heard from countless high-risk OBGYN doctors saying they’re too afraid to even counsel their patients anymore because of legal scares.
“I’ll never forget talking to a doctor in El Paso at a Planned Parenthood clinic. And she said the heartbreaking thing is seeing women miscarrying in El Paso and being turned away by the hospital, and actually having nowhere to go because the hospital is unclear what’s legal and what’s not legal,” Richards said.
She’ll be on stage with O’Rourke Tuesday evening, along with Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov. Mike Collier, and Democratic candidate for attorney general Rochelle Garza.
Richards says she hasn’t seen as much small-town support for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate since her mother was in office.
“This is not the kind of state that people want to raise their kids in. And I do think we’re going to see a surge of women registering to vote and showing up at the polls,” she said.
Conservative groups believe the Dobbs decision, and subsequent laws in Texas, will play to their favor.
“I absolutely do think that more people are going to turn out to the polls, because the momentum is high. We’ve achieved a lot in this movement. And again, and again, this has been a winning issue for Texas,” Mary Castle with Texas Values said Tuesday.
“I think it’s been a general consensus in the pro-life movement, that we want to make sure that we protect life at all costs. And make sure that the person who is punished for the crime is the rapist and make sure that they’re given the punishment for the atrocity that they committed against the woman. But we want to make sure that the baby, that human life, is not punished,” Castle said.
Gov. Abbott headlined the Conservative Political Action Conference last month in Dallas, and will debate O’Rourke on September 30, airing on KXAN and across Nexstar Texas stations.