Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was saying that new abortion law will eliminate rapes. Where are Texans a year later?
Houston, Texas – When the new abortion law in Texas contained no exceptions for rape, Republican Governor Greg Abbott justified it by promising that the state would eliminate rapes.
A year later, Lindsey LeBlanc is still as busy as ever assisting rape victims in a college town near Houston.
According to LeBlanc, executive director of the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Bryan, Texas, near Texas A&M University, “the numbers have been consistently high.” She has a waiting list for victims despite employing two new counselors in the past six months.
She stated, “We are struggling to keep up with demand.”
Republicans have struggled to defend zero-exception abortion laws, which are unpopular in public opinion polls, have sparked outrage in high-profile cases, and expose them to political danger ahead of the midterm elections in November. A year after the September 2021 implementation of the Texas legislation, at least a dozen states have similarly enacted prohibitions that make no exceptions for rape or incest.
The lack of exceptions has prompted divides among Republicans, especially in West Virginia, where a new law approved this month gives rape and incest victims a narrow window in which they can obtain abortions if they first report the crime to law authorities. Recently, South Carolina Republicans scrapped a similar ban because they lacked sufficient GOP support.
Sen. Katrina Shealy, a Republican from South Carolina, lashed out at her male colleagues on the floor of the state Senate, stating, “It truly disgusts me.”
Last week, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina permitted loopholes to the national abortion ban he advocated. Republicans have struggled to negotiate the abortion issue with voters since the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade this summer. As a result, the idea has virtually little chance of succeeding, as not even GOP leaders are immediately supporting it.
Overwhelming majorities of voters believe their state should normally permit abortion in specified instances, such as rape, incest, and when the pregnant woman’s health is threatened. Even Republicans view it as a dividing line with certain voters.
“It’s a very murky topic,” said Claudia Alcazar, the GOP chairperson in Starr County along the Texas-Mexico border, which has become a new electoral battlefield after the GOP made significant gains in 2020 with more conservative Hispanic voters.
She stated that she knows “hard-core” individuals who never had an abortion for whatever reason. And then there are those who respond, “Well, you know, it depends.”
In September of last year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott stated, “Texas will strive hard to eliminate all rapists off the streets.” It was deemed disconnected from reality by critics. Through August of this year, a sexual assault hotline in Houston has received over 4,800 calls, putting it on course to surpass last year’s number of 4,844.
In Texas, abortions are prohibited unless they are performed to save the mother’s life.
Renae Eze, in response to a question about what Abbott has done in the past year to eliminate rape, highlighted older measures to clear rape test kit backlogs, a law signed in June aimed at coordinating and expanding sexual assault resources, and a task force his office launched in 2019 to address the issue.
Eze added in a statement, “To avoid such horrible acts before they occur and to pursue any perpetrators to the full extent of the law, Governor Abbott has pushed forcefully against defunding the police and spearheaded bail reform reforms to prevent the release of dangerous felons.”
Since the law went into force in Texas last year, more than 14,000 rape incidents have been registered, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. This was a modest decrease from the previous year and was consistent with a statewide fall in violent crime rates.
Crisis centers in Texas report that the number of rape victims they accompanied to hospitals for medical examinations has increased since pandemic restrictions prevented advocates from entering. Alisha Mathenia, associate director of crisis services at the Women’s Facility in Fort Worth, stated that the center has counseled more than 650 victims undergoing tests in the past year, compared to roughly 340 the year before.
The vast majority of sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement, rendering any available data insufficient. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, almost eight out of ten sexual assaults are committed by a known offender.
“We’re not talking about a significant number of street-walking rapists. This is a fiction, according to Democrat Donna Howard, an Austin state legislator who co-authored the legislation establishing Abbott’s task panel.
At The SAFE Alliance in Austin, where victims of sexual assault may receive tests and medical care at its Eloise House, senior director Juliana Gonzales praised the state of Texas for its efforts to combat rape. “However, I also believe that it is essential for the state to accept the truth that we must respond to sexual assault,” she said.
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