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Will the threat to abortion rights be enough to get jaded Texas Democrats to vote?


If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade this year, will that mobilize voters this fall? Well, NPR's Ashley Lopez reports that when she spoke with Democratic voters in Texas, many say this issue is not enough to cure their current disappointment with the party.


ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: It's a blistering hot Saturday afternoon in Austin, and Eric Coraggio is knocking on doors for Democratic nominee Beto O'Rourke's gubernatorial campaign. He says he decided to help out just a few days ago, when he saw that the U.S. Supreme Court is potentially poised to strike down Roe v. Wade. Coraggio says until he saw that, he wasn't all that inspired to pitch in.

ERIC CORAGGIO: I was just like, oh, I'll get through it eventually. And then, like, this happened, and I was like, all right, now's the time. And so I kind of went and signed up immediately.

LOPEZ: Texas is among about a dozen states with a trigger ban in effect. That means 30 days after the court issues a ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion at any stage in a pregnancy will be illegal here. Coraggio says he's really concerned.

CORAGGIO: It's just really upsetting. And, you know, it's been standard for 50 years now. And it's - I can't believe this is happening in America.

LOPEZ: Coraggio is among thousands of new volunteers that the Beto O'Rourke campaign says it has gained in the wake of that leaked opinion. O'Rourke says he thinks all of this could help his campaign by shifting focus to a winning issue for Democrats. He says even in Texas, only a small percentage of voters support an all-out ban on abortion. According to a recent UT-Austin poll, only 15% of voters in the state would like to see the procedure completely banned.


BETO O'ROURKE: And this issue, I guarantee, is going to bring people out. And when we meet them where they are by showing up at their door and knocking on it and, in our own words, from our own heart, describing just how important this election is for all of us, we're going to see a record turnout.

LOPEZ: But when Eric Coraggio actually started knocking on doors this weekend, it was hard to find voters who were inspired to vote for Democrats because of the draft opinion. One of the doors he knocked on belonged to Hillary McLachlan. She lives in South Austin. She's 54 years old and cares about women's rights and LGBTQ issues. She also has a dog.


CORAGGIO: Hi. Hillary?


CORAGGIO: Hi. I'm with the Beto campaign and wanted to know how you're voting in this election.

MCLACHLAN: I honestly don't know at this point because I'm so mad at the Democratic Party. So (laughter) - I mean, I hope I'm going to be voting Democratic, but, I mean, I obviously would like Beto to win.

LOPEZ: But McLachlan says she feels like she was, quote, "bamboozled" by Democrats. She says the party holds majorities in Congress, and yet rights like access to abortion hang in the balance at the conservative Supreme Court without a remedy from the Democrats.

MCLACHLAN: Yeah, because this should have been taken care of. I mean, hopefully we can affect some change in Texas, which would be amazing. But, yeah, I'm just overall burnt out of, like, getting stepped on.

LOPEZ: In general, Democrats are facing a pretty significant enthusiasm gap in Texas, says Jim Henson with the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin.

JIM HENSON: All things being equal, you have a lot more enthusiasm for Republicans than you do among Democrats, who, of course, are pretty beleaguered in Texas.

LOPEZ: Henson says a lot of this could change depending on what actually happens to Roe v. Wade, though. He says if abortion is completely banned in Texas, polling shows it could be enough to engage some Democrats and independent voters who otherwise weren't too enthusiastic about voting for Democratic candidates this year.

HENSON: There are some possible advantages for Democrats, you know, looming here, but we don't know still exactly how this is going to unfold.

LOPEZ: As things stand right now, Eric Coraggio says it's hard to see how this will all turn out a wave of Democrats in the upcoming election.

CORAGGIO: And so unfortunately, no, I don't think a lot of people will come out for this. I'm more engaged. But I went and asked all my friends, and none of them volunteered.

LOPEZ: But he, too, says that could all change if Roe v. Wade is actually struck down. Coraggio says once abortions become completely inaccessible in parts of the country, he thinks people might actually get angry enough to vote.

Ashley Lopez, NPR News, Austin.

(SOUNDBITE OF D NUMBERS' "XYLEM UP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.