Texas Public Opinion on Abortion after Dobbs

Mark P. Jones is a Rice University Professor of Political Science.

Dobbs v. Jackson, the United States Supreme Court’s decision, overturned two Supreme Court decisions, Roe v. Wade (1973), and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (92), that had governed abortion policy for almost 50 years in the United States. The Dobbs decision changed the US’s abortion policy from one national policy that allowed abortion to be protected for any reason during 23 to 24 weeks of pregnancy (with some state variations as allowed by Casey), to 50 policies that could be used in each state.
The rules enshrined in Roe v. Wade are expected to be retained by approximately half of the 50 US states. Texas is the other half. They have adopted or will adopt more restrictive legislation by the end next year. This includes a ban on abortions in all circumstances, including when the mother’s health or life is at risk.
Following the repeal of Roe & Casey, Texas has passed legislation (House Bill 1280, also known as the “Trigger Law”) that allows abortion to be legalized in Texas. However, this law only applies if the mother’s well-being or life is at risk. The law prohibits abortion in any other circumstances. House Bill 1280 was approved by a 19-to-12 vote in Texas Senate (with 18 Republicans voting in favor, and 1 Democrat voting against), and an 81-to-61 vote in Texas House of Representatives (with 79 Republicans voting in favor, 2 Democrats voting against, and 61 Democrats voting for).

Texas Voters’ Opinions about Abortion
A post-Dobbs poll of Texas registered voters, conducted by the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs found that Texans are divided into two camps when it comes down to their opinions about the state’s abortion policies.
On the one hand, there is the 48% combined camp that wants to ban abortion altogether (10% of Texans), allow abortion only if the women’s life are at risk (13%) and permit abortion only if she is in danger (25%).
The combined 45% camp wants to allow abortion for any reason, 24 (28%), 20 (5%) 15, 15 (5%) and twelve (7%) weeks of pregnancy, or if the woman’s safety is at risk.
The remaining 7% of Texans believe abortion should be allowed through six weeks of pregnancy, regardless of the reason or if the woman is in imminent danger.

What Texasans Think About the Current Abortion Policy
Another way to look at abortion policy is the percentage of Texans who think a particular rule/policy governing abortions is too restrictive or too permissive.
According to the same survey, 77 percent of Texans believe that Texas’ current law prohibits abortion unless the mother’s well-being or health is at risk. Substantial gender (78% for women and 77% for men), ethnic/racial (73%, 81% of Latinos, 88% of Blacks and 88%of Blacks) and generational (73%, 79%, 78%, 78%, and 80% respectively of Generation X and Generation Z) majorities believe that the current legislation is too restrictive. Although more than nine in ten (94%) Texans identify as Democrats believe that the current legislation is too restrictive they are only 61% of Texans who identify themselves as Republicans.
94% of Texas Democrats believe that the Texas Trigger Law (House Bill 1208) is too restrictive. This is similar to the 96% of Democratic state legislators who voted against the bill. However, 100% of Republican legislators voted for the Texas Trigger Law. 61% of Texas Republicans think the law is too restrictive. The legislation would have been more in line with Texas Republicans’ preferences if it had included an exception for incest and rape. Only 27% of Texas Republicans believe that a ban that prohibits abortion that allows only exceptions for the mother’s life at risk and for incest is too restrictive.
According to the Hobby School survey, 72 percent of Texans think the Roe policy (abortion legal for any reason during 23 or 24 weeks pregnant) is too permissive. Substantial gender (70% for women and 74% for men), ethnic/racial (76%, 70% of Latinos, 60% of Blacks) as well as generational (74%, 69%, 75%, and 64% respectively of Generation X and Generation Z) majorities think the Roe and Casey rules were too permissive. 46 percent of Texans identifying as Democrats believe that the Roe and Casey rules governing abortion were too permissive. This is a position held in part by 93% of Texans who identify themselves as Republicans.
Abortion has been historically, and remai, a very human right.