Sep 26, 2022 - News

Key Texas lawmakers open to abortion ban exceptions

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan handling the gavel

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan handling the gavel last year. Photo: Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images

Key Texas Republicans are now signaling openness to giving victims of rape or incest access to abortions.

Driving the news: At the Texas Tribune's TribFest on Friday, a long-serving Republican state senator said he'd be open to a carve-out for rape — and the Texas House Speaker said he expected lawmakers would revisit the issue.

State of play: Under current Texas law, abortions are virtually outlawed — including in cases of rape and incest.

What they're saying: "If I get a chance to vote for an exception to rape, I will vote yes," state Sen. Robert Nichols, from East Texas, said on a legislative preview panel. "I think instead of us telling women what to do, we should show our support for women of this state."

Of note: Nichols voted in favor of restrictive Texas abortion laws last year that made no exceptions for rape or incest. (At TribFest he did not directly address exception in case of incest.)

In another event, House Speaker Dade Phelan told Tribune CEO Evan Smith that the House might change the law that criminalizes abortion.

Between the lines: The declarations come as Republicans worry about alienating women voters — especially suburban women voters — ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

  • Karl Rove predicated at TribFest on Saturday that Texas' abortion law will "create a real problem for Republicans in the Legislature next year when they have to deal with it."
  • Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus called the law "a huge mess, (a) self-inflicted wound to members of my party who should've paid better attention and didn't think the consequences will be difficult for them."

By the numbers: Only 13% and 11% of Texans, respectively, say pregnant people should not be able to obtain abortions in cases of rape or incest, per polling by the University of Texas.

Yes, but: Conservative members of the GOP were calling Phelan and Nichols RINOs by Friday afternoon.

💭 Our thought bubble: With the Legislature out of session, nothing will change officially until lawmakers reconvene in Austin next year — and once the results of the midterms settle out, the political impetus to pass carve-outs might dampen.


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