Hundreds of abortion-rights advocates gathered to protest the news of the U.S. Supreme Court’s potential overturning of Roe v. Wade outside of the the federal courthouse in Austin on Tuesday. A draft opinion showing that a majority of the court voted to overturn the landmark decision was leaked to Politico and reported on Monday.
If Roe is overturned, it would activate Texas’ so-called trigger law, which would essentially ban all abortions in the state.
Lola Estes, a retired business owner, recalled how she learned about the leaked opinion.
“Well, I was at the best musical show of the year at Continental Club and we had more fun than should be allowed by law. And we left the Continental Club at 8:30 p.m., 9 p.m. and got home and found out and it was from one happiness extreme to the depths of horror,” Estes said.
Some were concerned with how banning abortions would worsen health inequities in Texas. People with money, for example, would have access to safe abortions by traveling out of state, or even abroad. Meanwhile, poor women would not be as safe. Shanelle Salinas, a nanny who lives in Austin, said unregulated abortion medications or treatments are one example of the risk.
“We know that there are herbs and we know there are other ways to do these things, but they are dangerous, and it would be better if we had safer options,” Salinas said.
If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, Texas is set to ban nearly all abortions in the state. This has been years in the making, and not just here; Republicans across the country have advocated and pushed for a more conservative court. And in Texas, Republican lawmakers have already passed some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. That’s despite polling that shows the majority of Texas voters support some access to abortion.
Since the leak, Texas Republicans have expressed hopes that the Supreme Court follows through. Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush celebrated Tuesday morning from Washington, D.C., in a Facebook livestream in which he proclaimed, “What am amazing day it is for life.”
Bush also said: “I’m proud to be in a state like Texas were we would ban abortion because of the trigger law we passed in the last legislative session.”
Later this month, Bush faces off against incumbent Ken Paxton in a runoff for the Republican nomination for Texas attorney general.
Paxton also expressed optimism about the prospect of a future without abortions in Texas. He told WBAP radio Monday night that the draft opinion was “a very good sign,” and that “it’s not surprising to me. We actually led the amicus brief with 24 states asking the court to consider that since 1972 the Supreme Court has done a very bad job of regulating abortions. They took it away from the states.”
Paxton’s wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, authored the Texas Senate’s version of the trigger law. In a statement, she said she prayed that “this signal from the United States Supreme Court will become reality.”
Meanwhile, Texas Democrats have expressed their disappointment. On Twitter, Congressman Lloyd Doggett said of the leaked decision, “If accurate, the Republican-controlled activist Supreme Court is about to deal a blow to five decades of precedent protecting the right to privacy and choice.”
In a statement, Rep. Colin Allred of Dallas said, “We cannot go back to a time when women couldn’t make decisions about their own bodies.”
Back at the Austin pro-abortion-rights rally, folks were feeling deflated and frustrated. Johee Chung, a 30-year-old software developer, said the decision felt like a “giant step backwards.”
“I think it’s really hard tho not to get dejected. I think it’s really hard not to see immediate change … and feel like, oh, is what I’m doing matters. But you don’t really have a choice,” she said.