AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — When Texas’ new abortion law made no exceptions in circumstances of rape, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott defended it with an assurance: Texas would get to work eliminating rapes.
One year later, Lindsey LeBlanc is busy as ever serving to rape victims in a school city exterior Houston.
“The numbers have stayed consistently high,” stated LeBlanc, govt director of the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Bryan, close to Texas A&M University. Despite hiring two further counselors prior to now six months, she nonetheless has a waitlist for victims.
“We are struggling to keep up with demand,” she stated.
The fixed caseloads in Texas are one other instance of how Republicans have struggled to defend zero-exception abortion bans that are unpopular in public polling, have brought on uproar in high-profile circumstances, and are inviting political threat heading into November’s midterm elections. A year since Texas’ legislation went into impact in September 2021, not less than a dozen states even have bans that make no exceptions in circumstances of rape or incest.
“It really disgusts me,” stated 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 underneath the proposed national abortion ban he launched final week. The proposal has just about no probability of passing, with even GOP leaders not instantly backing it, reflecting how Republicans have broadly struggled to navigate the difficulty of abortion with voters for the reason that U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer season.
Overwhelming majorities of voters suppose their state ought to typically enable abortion in particular circumstances, together with rape, incest or if the well being of the pregnant individual is endangered. Even Republicans are seeing it as a line with some voters.
“It’s a very gray issue,” stated Claudia Alcazar, the GOP chairwoman in Starr County alongside the Texas-Mexico border that has change into a new political battleground after Republicans made large beneficial properties with extra conservative Hispanic voters in 2020.
She stated she is aware of those that are “hardcore, never have abortion for any reason, period. And then I have the other ones that are like, ‘Well, you know, it depends.’”
In Texas, the blowback was swift when Abbott said last September: “Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets.” Critics referred to as it indifferent from actuality. A sexual assault hotline in Houston has answered virtually 4,800 calls by means of August this year — placing it on monitor to exceed final year’s quantity of 4,843.
As of this summer season, all abortions had been banned in Texas besides if it might save a mom’s life.
Asked what Abbott has carried out prior to now year to eradicate rape, spokeswoman Renae Eze highlighted older measures to clear rape take a look at package backlogs, a legislation signed in June geared toward coordinating and increasing sexual assault resources and a job power his office launched in 2019 to handle the difficulty.
“To prevent such heinous crimes before they happen, and to prosecute any criminals to the full extent of the law, Governor Abbott has aggressively fought against defunding the police and led bail reform efforts to prevent the release of dangerous criminals,” Eze stated in an announcement.
More than 14,000 rape crimes have been reported in Texas for the reason that legislation took impact final year, in accordance with knowledge from the Texas Department of Public Safety. That was barely down from the year earlier than and in line with a decline in different violent crime figures throughout the state.
Crisis facilities in Texas say the variety of rape victims they’ve accompanied to hospitals for exams is rebounding for the reason that pandemic restrictions stored advocates from coming into. The Women’s Center in Fort Worth has made greater than 650 visits to counsel victims present process exams prior to now year in comparison with about 340 within the year prior, stated Alisha Mathenia, the assistant director of disaster providers on the middle.
The majority of sexual assaults are by no means reported to police, making any out there knowledge an incomplete image. And about 8 out of 10 sexual assaults are dedicated by an individual identified to the sufferer, in accordance with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
“We’re not talking about a large of number of rapists walking around on the street. That’s a myth,” stated Democrat Donna Howard, a state consultant in Austin who co-authored the invoice creating Abbott’s job power.
At The SAFE Alliance in Austin, the place sexual assault victims can get exams and medical care at its Eloise House, senior director Juliana Gonzales stated it’s admirable for Texas to work on rape prevention. “But I also think it’s important for the state to live in the reality that we have to respond to sexual assault,” she stated.
Jamie Stengle reported from Dallas.
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