Abbott, O’Rourke, advocates agree: abortion a deciding issue in impending election

“There seems to be confusion in the medical community, what it means to protect the life of the mother,” Gov. Greg Abbott says.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott and his Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke are tackling the...
Republican Governor Greg Abbott and his Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke are tackling the abortion debate heading into election day.(KWTX photos)
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 12:12 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - With less than a week to go before election day, polls show one of the most divisive topics in Texas is over abortion.

During a recent trip to Waco, Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, told KWTX there needs to be clarification on what reproductive procedures can--and cannot--be performed in the state.

“There seems to be confusion in the medical community, what it means to protect the life of the mother,” Abbott told KWTX.

Following reports of pregnant Texas women being refused abortions when their own life was in danger, Abbott wants to set the record straight.

“The life of the mother is extraordinarily important and must be protected, let me give you some examples: there are ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages that clearly are not abortions whatsoever, but some doctors are refusing to provide treatment for that or care for that,” said Abbott. “There are other healthcare situations that some pregnant mothers are going through that could endanger their lives, and that some doctors may be refusing to provide care for.”

Whether in the form of legislation or educational programs, Abbott says clarification is needed.

“There could be several approaches to it--one could be legislation that clarifies it, or, it could be working it through the medical community to make sure that doctors are fulfilling their oath and obligation to protect the life of mothers,” said Abbott.

Pro-life advocates say Texas’ law is clear, and people need to be aware.

“In those extremely rare cases where pregnancy may endanger a woman’s life or cause severe risk of impairment of a major bodily function, that exception is the same exception, language-wise, as in the law that was passed in 2013 to protect unborn babies from abortion beginning at 20 weeks, so this is language that has been in statues in Texas for almost ten years,” said Amy O’Donnell, Communications Director for Texas Alliance For Life. “But apparently there does appear to be a need for clarification because some doctor’s aren’t aware that treatment for ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage is not considered abortion, it’s not prohibited by our pro-life laws including the Human Life Protection Act, and when the mother’s life is in danger, our laws very clearly state they are allowed to intervene in those situations--not to cause the death of the unborn child, but to protect the life of the mother.”

Although she says the legislation is already clear, she says her non-profit would support lawmakers in providing additional clarification if they see fit.

“Words matter, and the words clearly spell out that these stories that we’re seeing in Texas about ectopic pregnancy treatments not being available or miscarriage treatments not being available or life of the mother—the law clearly spells out that all of those treatments are available and acceptable in Texas law, they are not considered abortion in any way, shape, or form,” said O’Donnell. “If you encounter a doctor who is not aware of what Texas laws really state, and because of that don’t provide good medical care, you need to run far and fast.”

However, in campaign ads, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke has been using healthcare professionals and women who say the life of the mother is not being protected.

“Winning this election means that we can change that for the better,” said O’Rourke.

During a stop in Waco last week, Beto told KWTX the state’s abortion law needs to be abolished altogether.

“I’ve been listening to my fellow Texans here in Waco, throughout the state, and they want us to get back to some common sense and some common ground, like making sure that Texas women can make their own decisions about their own bodies, their own future and their own healthcare,” said O’Rourke. “That’s Republicans, Democrats, Independents alike who agree on that and who disagree with Greg Abbott’s extreme abortion ban which is making it far more dangerous for women to stay and live in the State of Texas.”

Officials with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas say, politics should be left out of the exam room.

“The current law in Texas is extreme,” said Drucilla Tigner, Deputy Director over Strategic Campaigns and Partnerships for Planned Parenthood Texas Votes. “This is why politicians should not play doctor. The Governor does not understand miscarriage management, the legislature does not understand miscarriage management and how this extreme abortion ban is putting the health and lives of women at risk, it should be up to the doctor to decide, along with the patient, what care that they need, and that includes abortion and other basic healthcare.”

Tigner says, because of the current law, they’re having to turn women away.

“They’re all over Texas,” said Tigner of the women. “Planned Parenthoods across Texas have to turn away people who need access to fundamental care, and as a result, many people have to travel out-of-state hundreds of miles to get the care that they need, and that includes folks who might be having pregnancy complications, but it also includes people who just cannot have a child right now and are choosing the path that’s best for them, and as a result of the extreme abortion ban, they must go out-of-state to get the care that they need.”

The best way for Texas doctors to provide that care, Tigner says, is to repeal the ban to remove the confusion.

“The best way to allow for doctors to be able to save women’s lives, in order to be able to care for women in the way they deserve to be cared for, is to repeal this terrible and extreme law that subjects them to life in prison if they get it wrong,” said Tigner. “We think that the best way to clarify the law in Texas is to reappeal the current abortion ban, and until Greg Abbott does that, there will continue to be confusion in the state of Texas.”

One thing both sides can agree on: the abortion issue will be a motivator to the polls, because lives are at stake.

“Women’s lives are on the ballot, and we’ve got to vote for it like we mean it,” said O’Rourke.

“We must protect the life of the mother, just as much as the life of the baby,” said Abbott.