Aug 5, 2022 - News

Why Texas won't have an abortion referendum like Kansas

An abortion rights protester holds up a placard in Austin.

Demonstrators rally against anti-abortion and voter-suppression laws at the Texas State Capitol in October in Austin. Photo: Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

A huge win in Kansas this week for abortion rights supporters energized Democrats — and raised questions about whether such a referendum could pass in Texas.

The short answer: Yes, Texas voters might very well support a constitutional right to abortion — but there's no way in hell they'll get to weigh in.

Driving the news: In Kansas, the Democratic-controlled state supreme court recognized the right to abortion, prompting the Republican-controlled legislature to ask voters to effectively veto that decision.

  • But voters instead supported keeping that right protected, giving hope to progressives after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Between the lines: In Texas, the elected, all-Republican state supreme court will never go that route — so the GOP-controlled legislature, which has ratcheted down abortion access, will not have to resort to an appeal to voters.

  • Amendments to the Texas Constitution can be put before voters only after being approved by two-thirds of each body of the legislature, Texas Secretary of State spokesperson Sam Taylor tells Axios.

Of note: Texas lawmakers could decide to put a constitutional amendment banning abortion before voters — but such a maneuver could backfire.

What they're saying: State Rep. Donna Howard, a nurse and Austin Democrat, said the Kansas vote was an encouraging sign for pro-abortion-rights voters in red states like Texas.

  • "We can certainly at least infer that voters are not wanting to have this kind of overreach from the government," Howard told Axios.
  • She added that the true test could come from statewide races: "There is a lot of potential here if we have a way to make sure that message is still getting out to folks on a regular basis."

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