Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
At a time when Texas is poised to outlaw the vast majority of abortions if the nation’s highest court overturns constitutional protections for the procedure, a recent University of Texas at Austin poll shows most Texan voters think access to abortion should be allowed in some form.
Texas would make performing most abortions a felony if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade — a future that looks considerably more likely after a nonbinding draft opinion was leaked from the high court Monday. Constitutional protections for abortion could be struck down as soon as this summer.
The university conducted the poll in April before the court’s document was leaked. The survey found that 78% of respondents believe abortion should be allowed in some form while only 15% said it should be never permitted.
If Roe is overturned, Texas would allow doctors to perform abortions only to save the life of a pregnant person or if that person risked “substantial impairment of major bodily function.” There would be no exception if someone got pregnant from rape or incest.
Around 39% of poll respondents said Texans should always be able to obtain abortions as a matter of personal choice, and 11% of respondents thought abortions should be available for other reasons in addition to pregnancy resulting from rape.
The poll shows that 28% of respondents believe abortions should be available only in cases of rape or incest or when a person’s life is endangered by their pregnancy. And 7% said they didn’t know.
Respondents fell mostly along party lines. Of the Republicans surveyed, 42% said abortions should be allowed only in cases of rape, incest or when a person’s life is in danger. The majority of Democrat respondents — 67% — said Texans should be allowed to seek an abortion as a personal choice.
But there were outliers. Among Republicans, 15% said Texans should always be allowed to seek an abortion and 12% said the law should allow Texans to seek abortions for reasons outside of just rape. On the flip side, 5% of Democrats said abortion should be completely outlawed and 13% said it should be allowed only in cases of rape or incest.
Texas is one of 13 states with so-called trigger laws that would automatically go into effect to ban abortions if Roe is overturned.
Texans have experienced a preview of a post-Roe America for the last eight months. The state has been under the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, which bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, since September. The ban is able to skirt protections on abortion access by relying on private lawsuits for enforcement rather than on state officials. Critics say the law creates “bounty hunters” because it allows anyone to file a lawsuit and seek damages of at least $10,000 — even if they lack a connection to the person seeking an abortion. Abortion rights advocates have unsuccessfully challenged the ban in both state and federal courts.
But now, much of Texas’ controversial abortion law could be rendered moot as the impending Supreme Court ruling puts the right to a legal abortion in jeopardy.
“For months, Texans have had to navigate a six-week abortion ban and bounty law that has upended access to essential care,” Ana Ramón, interim executive director of the progressive political action committee Annie’s List, said in a statement. “[The Supreme Court’s] draft majority opinion confirms what we’ve anticipated all along: the end of our guaranteed right to abortion is imminent.”
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Help mission-driven journalism flourish in Texas. The Texas Tribune relies on reader support to continue delivering news that informs Texans and engages with them. Donate now to join as a Texas Tribune member. Plus, give monthly or yearly now through May 5 and you’ll help unlock a $10K match. Give and double your impact today.