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The Losers of the Texas Republican Primary Will Be Women

A Supreme Court case being heard Wednesday reminds us why candidates’ anti-abortion positions matter.

Nearly half of the delegates needed to win the Republican presidential nomination are at stake on Super Tuesday, when voters in a dozen states go to the polls. But for those who will be watching election returns tonight like they’re monitoring sports scores, there shouldn’t be much drama. Donald Trump has kept making an ass of himself while simultaneously insulting everyone’s intelligence, and that’s proving to be a winning formula for voters. There’s really only one major state that’s in contention out of the 12: Texas, where 155 delegates are apportioned in a way we’ll figure out later. A Super Tuesday victory there is pretty much the only reason home-state senator Ted Cruz, who’s been slipping in the latest contests, can give for staying in the race with a surging Trump and establishment champion Marco Rubio.

It looks like Cruz will win there, if the polling has it right. But no matter which of these candidates running for the Republican nomination wins on Tuesday, we know who’s losing: women, and anyone else who doesn’t want to see their sex lives or reproductive choices governed by the religious convictions of their elected representatives.

As Christopher Hooks notes, Texas is seen as one of the best models for conservative governance in the nation. Fundamental to that model, as we’ve seen over the past few years, are harsh legislative restrictions on reproductive rights and abortion access, limits that all Republican presidential candidates support. Rubio believes in no exceptions for abortion, save for the life of the mother. Who knows what Trump actually believes, but he has said he’ll work to defund Planned Parenthood. And Cruz, known as much for his public religiosity as for his reckless warmongering, said in January, “Every human life is a precious gift from God and should be protected from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death.”

These men are all anti-abortion hardliners. This is why the most meaningful vote for Texas women will take place in Washington, D.C., after Super Tuesday has come and gone. The Supreme Court is set to hear the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which will either validate or strike down the requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges to local hospitals, a precaution that’s medically unnecessary for a procedure that typically doesn’t require surgery. Such rules have the effect of closing clinics that can’t meet those regulations, lessening abortion access. The laws, which disproportionately strip away the rights of women of color and the poor, are the driving force behind the fastest rate of clinic closings since Roe v. Wade made the medical procedure legal in 1973.

Prior to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who believed Roe was wrongly decided, the governors of Texas and many other Republican-controlled states appeared headed for a win. Now, the prospect of a 4-4 decision is the best they can hope for -- one that would merely uphold their laws but not create a Supreme Court precedent. Liberals hold out hope that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has ruled both ways on abortion cases, will side with the other liberal judges on the Court and declare these laws to be unconstitutional.

There is a possibility that Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic primary winner in Texas on Tuesday, could make the state competitive against either Trump or Rubio in the general election. Still, Texas has gone red for pretty much its entire history. Even if the Republicans nominate a slick-talking businessman from New York, I doubt that changes in the fall. (After all, Texas governor Greg Abbott seemed willing to give Trump a pass for failing to disavow the support of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and other white supremacists when asked last weekend.)

However, that doesn’t mean Texas liberals, and those in other red states, shouldn’t show up now or in November.

The Whole Woman’s Health case underscores how the pairing of the judicial branch and Republican dominance at the local and state level intersect. Texas voters won’t be able to swing their state House and Senate Democratic in November, even if the party wins every seat that’s in contention. Seventy percent of all statehouses and 60 percent of all governorships, per the Observer, are under Republican control. But pair that with a Republican president, and the limitation of reproductive rights will only get more severe. The anti-abortion movement has traded in, for the most part, physical violence against abortion patients and providers for legislative violence. As we indulge in the Super Tuesday hype and the latest rhetorical barbs that the candidates trade, we only need to look to Texas to understand how serious this all truly is.