Sep 7, 2022 - Politics

Abortion could drive Texas women to the polls

This illustration shows a voting ballot with the female symbol on top of it.
Illustration: Axios Visuals

The end of Roe could make November complicated for Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans.

Driving the news: Tom Bonier — a Democratic strategist and CEO of TargetSmart, a data and polling firm — says a "Roe wave" of new women voters, fired up by the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs decision, could swamp GOP hopes of a red wave in November's midterms.

  • "In my 28 years analyzing elections, I've never seen anything like what's happened in the past two months in American politics: Women are registering to vote in numbers I've never witnessed," Bonier writes in a New York Times op-ed.

By the numbers: More than 309,000 Texans either registered for the first time or updated their voter registration in the roughly two months between when the Dobbs decision came down and late August, per the Texas Secretary of State's office. Just under half of those were women, but voters are not required to disclose their gender.

  • Registrations were relatively flat before the Dobbs decision, with total registration hovering around 17.2 million voters in Texas.
  • Women have outnumbered men at the Texas polls in the presidential and midterm elections since at least 2014, per data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Catch up quick: Texas' so-called "trigger law" made abortion — including for survivors of rape and incest — illegal in the state.

  • Over the weekend, Abbott attempted to ease voters' minds, saying Texans who are victims of rape can instead take the emergency contraceptive Plan B.
  • "We want to support those victims, but also those victims can access health care immediately, as well as to report it," Abbott told The Dallas Morning News and KXAS-TV.
  • Democrat Beto O'Rourke's gubernatorial campaign quickly wrapped Abbott's remarks into a 30-second ad Tuesday, calling it a "cruel message" to victims.

Of note: Emergency contraception is less effective for those over 165 pounds, and must be taken within 24 hours of sex to be most effective.

Zoom in: Both parties are working to win over women voters in Texas.

Zoom out: The states with the biggest surges in women registering after the Supreme Court decision were deep-red Kansas, where abortion rights triumphed in a referendum last month, and Idaho, Bonier writes.

  • Key battleground states also showed large increases, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, which are all facing statewide races in which the fate of abortion access could be decided in November.
  • The New York Times found that in 10 states with available voter registration data, the number of women registering to vote rose by about 35% after the decision, compared with the month before the leak of a draft opinion. Men ticked up by 9%.

The bottom line: Texas remains pretty darn red.

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