SAN ANTONIA – By the time Dr. Hector Gonzalez arrived in Laredo, Texas, in 2001, the last abortion clinic was already closed. He spent the next 20 years feeling on his own lips that the predominantly Latin American and heavily Catholic community along the border with Mexico was usually taking sides.
“Of course it was, ‘You can’t have an abortion,'” said Gonzalez, the city’s former health director.
This culture has helped protect the congressman of the region, which holds nine terms, Henry Cuellar, who is one of the last in the Democratic Congress against abortion. But on Tuesday, he faced the toughest challenge of his career in the second round of elections against progressive rival Jessica Cisneras, a 28-year-old immigration lawyer who supports access to abortion.
With the U.S. Supreme Court potentially revoking abortion rights this summer, the second round is being closely watched to see if it revives the issue of Democratic voters. The infusion of money that outside groups have spilled on the ground and on television in South Texas is an indicator of an important race, and abortion rights advocates are trying to lower expectations about the wider consequences.
“National trends are not determined by elections alone and are not determined by elections alone,” said Lawrence Butler, president of Emily’s List, which supports women who support abortion rights and supported Cisneros.
Regardless, the race will give an understanding of the direction of the Democratic Party. The Progressives have won several notable victories this primary season, defeating the moderate candidate in the Senate primaries last week in Pennsylvania and potentially removing the incumbent congressman in Oregon, where the vote count is still ongoing.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, wanting to protect the incumbent president, supported Cuellar, even as she reaffirmed her strong support for abortion rights. MP Jim Clayburn, the third-ranked Democrat in the House of Representatives, this month campaigned with Cuellar in Texas, saying the top priority should be to keep the seat in the hands of the party. Cisneras, he argued, risks losing to the Republicans.
However, a leak in a draft court ruling in April sparked what was already a close – and increasingly costly – race. In the March primaries, Cisneras completed about 1,000 votes from Cuellar, forcing him to win the second round after none of the candidates exceeded the majority threshold. It was as close as Cuellar came to losing his 17-year-old power in the chair.
But the second round also illustrated the difficult upswing that the American abortion rights movement is facing this fall, launching a full-blown attack on opposing incumbents – a challenge that manifests itself even here in a tightly democratic region, not to mention fighting ahead in the Republican-favoring areas.
The result could reveal the limits of abortion as a problem for voters. A national poll conducted before the conscription leaked showed that abortion was ahead of other issues, including high inflation and gun control.
“People here are pretty liberal,” said 76-year-old Martha Cerna, a retired San Antonio school teacher who supports access to abortion. “But the further south you go to Texas, the worse.”
Cherna lives in the Cuellar area, which is more than a two-hour drive north of his hometown of Laredo. She appeared early in downtown San Antonio on an abortion march and hid from the scorching South Texas sun in an area near City Hall where the current mayor and former, former presidential candidate Julian Castro, are openly advocating for abortion rights. .
Cisneras joined the march, but Cherna said voters here are not the ones to be persuaded. “That’s why I think it’s going to be hard for her to sell because some Democrats want to go with Cuellar,” she said.
Cisneras, who once did an internship at Cuellar but now holds the support and agenda of the left-wing Democrats, has in recent weeks tended to contrast with abortion.
When a grand jury in South Texas in April accused a woman of murder in a miscarriage, it happened in one of the county’s rural counties. The charges were quickly dropped after causing national outrage, but Cisneras pointed to it as a prosecution for seeking medical attention.
“When we find time to talk to people about what it really means to be a supporter of choice, and that is to believe that the government should not be in the middle of this type of private decision and seek abortion, then people usually understand what they are for. “, – she said in an interview.
Cuellar brushed off information leaks to the Supreme Court at a rally in San Antonio this month, saying voters knew his position. His powerful allies in Congress have defended their support for Cuellar, in part saying the loss will open the door for Republicans to overthrow the county, which also leans toward a more conservative one when it comes to gun rights and border security.
In Laredo, where Cuellar’s brother is the county sheriff, Gonzalez recalls feeling “a lot of warmth” when his health department began offering birth control pills. He retired in 2019 and expressed disappointment that women wishing to have an abortion had to travel for hours to the Rio Grande Valley. – which now has a single clinic on the border of Texas and Mexico – or San Antonio.
In a food truck near San Antonio, 64-year-old City Ramos burst into tears as she described her opposition to abortion, taking a break from serving tacos and burgers to customers. She called herself a Democrat and a strong Catholic who is not usually involved in politics. But, according to her, the position of Cisneras she can not sit.
“I urge everyone to vote,” she said. “It’s a serious problem for me.”
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