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No Surprise: Texas Gov. Didn’t ‘Eliminate All Rapists’ As Promised After Anti-Abortion Law

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — When Texas’ recent abortion law made no exceptions in cases of rape, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott defended it with an assurance: Texas would get to work eliminating rapes.

One 12 months later, Lindsey LeBlanc is busy as ever helping rape victims in a university town outside Houston.

“The numbers have stayed consistently high,” said LeBlanc, executive director of the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Bryan, near Texas A&M University. Despite hiring two additional counselors up to now six months, she still has a waitlist for victims.

“We’re struggling to maintain up with demand,” she said.

The constant caseloads in Texas are one other example of how Republicans have struggled to defend zero-exception abortion bans which are unpopular in public polling, have caused uproar in high-profile cases, and are inviting political risk heading into November’s midterm elections. A 12 months since Texas’ law went into effect in September 2021, no less than a dozen states even have bans that make no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

“It really disgusts me,” said 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, also of South Carolina, allowed exceptions under the proposed national abortion ban he introduced last week. The proposal has virtually no likelihood of passing, with even GOP leaders not immediately 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.

Overwhelming majorities of voters think their state should generally allow abortion in specific cases, including rape, incest or if the health of the pregnant person is endangered. Even Republicans are seeing it as a line with some voters.

“It’s a really gray issue,” said Claudia Alcazar, the GOP chairwoman in Starr County along the Texas-Mexico border that has turn out to be a recent political battleground after Republicans made big gains with more conservative Hispanic voters in 2020.

She said she knows those that are “hardcore, never have abortion for any reason, period. After which I even have the opposite ones which are like, ‘Well, you already know, it depends.’”

In Texas, the blowback was swift when Abbott said last September: “Texas will work tirelessly to be sure that that we eliminate all rapists from the streets.” Critics called it detached from reality. A sexual assault hotline in Houston has answered almost 4,800 calls through August this 12 months — putting it heading in the right direction to exceed last 12 months’s volume of 4,843.

As of this summer, all abortions were banned in Texas except if it might save a mother’s life.

Asked what Abbott has done up to now 12 months to eliminate rape, spokeswoman Renae Eze highlighted older measures to clear rape test kit backlogs, a law signed in June aimed toward coordinating and expanding sexual assault resources and a task force his office launched in 2019 to deal with the difficulty.

“To stop such heinous crimes before they occur, and to prosecute any criminals to the total extent of the law, Governor Abbott has aggressively fought against defunding the police and led bail reform efforts to stop the discharge of dangerous criminals,” Eze said in a press release.

Greater than 14,000 rape crimes have been reported in Texas for the reason that law took effect last 12 months, in accordance with data from the Texas Department of Public Safety. That was barely down from the 12 months before and consistent with a decline in other violent crime figures across the state.

Crisis centers in Texas say the variety of rape victims they’ve accompanied to hospitals for exams is rebounding for the reason that pandemic restrictions kept advocates from entering. The Women’s Center in Fort Value has made greater than 650 visits to counsel victims undergoing exams up to now 12 months in comparison with about 340 within the 12 months prior, said Alisha Mathenia, the assistant director of crisis services at the middle.

Nearly all of sexual assaults are never reported to police, making any available data an incomplete picture. And about 8 out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by an individual known to the victim, in accordance with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

“We’re not talking a few large of variety of rapists walking around on the road. That’s a myth,” said Democrat Donna Howard, a state representative in Austin who co-authored the bill creating Abbott’s task force.

At The SAFE Alliance in Austin, where sexual assault victims can get exams and medical care at its Eloise House, senior director Juliana Gonzales said it’s admirable for Texas to work on rape prevention. “But I also think it’s vital for the state to live in the fact that now we have to answer sexual assault,” she said.

Jamie Stengle reported from Dallas.

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