AUSTIN, Texas — When Texas’ new abortion regulation made no exceptions in circumstances of rape, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott defended it with an assurance: Texas would get to work eliminating rapes.
One yr later, Lindsey LeBlanc is busy as ever serving to rape victims in a college city exterior Houston.
“The numbers have stayed constantly excessive,” mentioned LeBlanc, government director of the Sexual Assault Useful resource Heart in Bryan, close to Texas A&M College. Regardless of hiring two extra counselors prior to now six months, she nonetheless has a waitlist for victims.
“We’re struggling to maintain up with demand,” she mentioned.
The fixed caseloads in Texas are one other instance of how Republicans have struggled to defend zero-exception abortion bans which can be unpopular in public polling, have precipitated uproar in high-profile circumstances and are inviting political danger heading into November’s midterm elections. A yr since Texas’ regulation went into impact in September 2021, a minimum of a dozen states even have bans that make no exceptions in circumstances of rape or incest.
The absence of exceptions has precipitated divisions amongst Republicans, together with in West Virginia, the place a brand new regulation signed this month permits a short window for rape and incest victims to acquire abortions provided that they report back to regulation enforcement first. Lately, South Carolina Republicans scuttled a proposed ban after failing to get sufficient GOP assist.
“It actually disgusts me,” mentioned Republican South Carolina state Sen. Katrina Shealy, ripping into her male colleagues on the ground of the state Senate.
Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, additionally of South Carolina, allowed exceptions beneath the proposed nationwide abortion ban he launched final week. The proposal has nearly no likelihood of passing, with even GOP leaders not instantly backing it, reflecting how Republicans have broadly struggled to navigate the difficulty of abortion with voters because the U.S. Supreme Courtroom overturned Roe v. Wade this summer season.
Overwhelming majorities of voters suppose their state ought to usually permit abortion in particular circumstances, together with rape, incest or if the well being of the pregnant particular person is endangered. Even Republicans are seeing it as a line with some voters.
“It is a very grey difficulty,” mentioned Claudia Alcazar, the GOP chairwoman in Starr County alongside the Texas-Mexico border that has turn into a new political battleground after Republicans made massive beneficial properties with extra conservative Hispanic voters in 2020.
She mentioned she is aware of those that are “hardcore, by no means have abortion for any purpose, interval. After which I’ve the opposite ones which can be like, ‘Properly, , it relies upon.’”
In Texas, the blowback was swift when Abbott mentioned final September: “Texas will work tirelessly to ensure that we get rid of all rapists from the streets.” Critics known as it indifferent from actuality. A sexual assault hotline in Houston has answered virtually 4,800 calls via August this yr — placing it on monitor to exceed final yr’s quantity of 4,843.
As of this summer season, all abortions have been banned in Texas besides if it might save a mom’s life.
Requested what Abbott has carried out prior to now yr to get rid of rape, spokeswoman Renae Eze highlighted older measures to clear rape take a look at package backlogs, a regulation signed in June geared toward coordinating and increasing sexual assault sources and a process drive his workplace launched in 2019 to deal with the difficulty.
“To stop such heinous crimes earlier than they occur, and to prosecute any criminals to the complete extent of the regulation, Governor Abbott has aggressively fought towards defunding the police and led bail reform efforts to stop the discharge of harmful criminals,” Eze mentioned in a press release.
Greater than 14,000 rape crimes have been reported in Texas because the regulation took impact final yr, in line with information from the Texas Division of Public Security. That was barely down from the yr earlier than and per a decline in different violent crime figures throughout the state.
Disaster facilities in Texas say the variety of rape victims they’ve accompanied to hospitals for exams is rebounding because the pandemic restrictions stored advocates from getting into. The Ladies’s Heart in Fort Price has made greater than 650 visits to counsel victims present process exams prior to now yr in comparison with about 340 within the yr prior, mentioned Alisha Mathenia, the assistant director of disaster providers on the middle.
Nearly all of sexual assaults are by no means reported to police, making any obtainable information an incomplete image. And about 8 out of 10 sexual assaults are dedicated by an individual identified to the sufferer, in line with the Rape, Abuse & Incest Nationwide Community.
“We’re not speaking about a big of variety of rapists strolling round on the road. That’s a fantasy,” mentioned Democrat Donna Howard, a state consultant in Austin who co-authored the invoice creating Abbott’s process drive.
At The SAFE Alliance in Austin, the place sexual assault victims can get exams and medical care at its Eloise Home, senior director Juliana Gonzales mentioned it’s admirable for Texas to work on rape prevention. “However I additionally suppose it’s vital for the state to reside within the actuality that we’ve to answer sexual assault,” she mentioned.
Stengle reported from Dallas.
Discover extra AP protection of the abortion difficulty: https://apnews.com/hub/abortion