LUBBOCK, Texas ― Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee for governor of Texas, said Tuesday that he is “open” to “compromise” with Republicans on abortion rights legislation that would undo the current, total ban on the practice ― even if that compromise restricts abortion more than he would like.
During a discussion with reporters after a rally at Texas Tech, HuffPost asked O’Rourke whether he would entertain legislation that would replace the state’s present total prohibition with a ban on the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
O’Rourke refused to rule out such a proposal, affirming that he is “open to consensus ― and I know this is a dirty word ― even compromise on every single issue before us.”
“If we can move from the most extreme abortion ban in America that begins at conception with no exception for rape or incest, and ensure that Texas women can make their own decisions about their own bodies, I’ll work with anyone, anytime, anywhere, including Republican legislators,” he added.
HuffPost followed up to ask if there were any compromises on abortion rights that he would not entertain, because he considers them deal breakers.
“No,” he replied. “I want to make sure that I have the chance to listen to and work with people who have deeply held personal beliefs on this, find out where they’re coming from, ask them to listen to where I am, and reflect back what I’ve heard across this state, and then find out where we can bring common sense and common ground to help those who otherwise right now find themselves under attack in their own state.”
O’Rourke’s comments are perhaps his clearest indication to date of what kind of abortion restrictions he would be willing to tolerate as governor ― and an acknowledgment of the reality of Republican rule that he is likely to face in the state legislature.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), whom O’Rourke is challenging, has accused him of opposing any restrictions on abortion up until the point of birth, and characterized that stance as the “most extreme” in the race.
During a Sept. 30 televised debate between the two candidates, moderator Sally Hernandez of KXAN News Today asked O’Rourke whether he supported restrictions on abortion of any kind.
“I will work with the legislature and my fellow Texans to return us to the standard that Texas women won in the first place: Roe versus Wade,” O’Rourke responded. “That’s the standard that answers your question.”
O’Rourke did not clarify at the time whether he considered certain time cutoffs acceptable under the Roe v. Wade framework.
But implicitly, O’Rourke was signaling that he considered the point in a pregnancy when a fetus can survive outside the womb as an acceptable cutoff point.
Until the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision this past June, the Supreme Court’s decision in the Roe v. Wade case in 1973 prohibited state governments from barring abortions until the point of fetal viability. The ruling had allowed states to prohibit abortions after that point, which has often been interpreted to be 24 weeks into a pregnancy.
In Texas, as O’Rourke noted, the Dobbs decision overturning a Constitutional right to abortion, opened the door to one of the strictest abortion prohibitions in the country.
Abbott had signed a law in May 2021 making abortions a felony in Texas unless the mother’s life is in danger. The “trigger” law, which would be triggered by a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, officially took effect in August.
Doctors who perform abortions that are not deemed medically necessary to save the mother’s life now face criminal penalties up to life in prison.
O’Rourke has made reinstating abortion rights in Texas a cornerstone of his campaign to deny Abbott a third term in office.
In his speech to a standing-room crowd of hundreds of college students on Tuesday morning, O’Rourke noted that the women who won the Roe v. Wade decision ― a woman known by the pseudonym “Jane Roe” and her two attorneys ― were from Texas.
“If it was Texas women who won the way 50 years ago, then it will be Texas women who win it back in 2022,” he exclaimed to cheers from the rallygoers.