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Vote may be key to future of abortion

State reps will play large role if Roe is overturned, groups say

Both sides on the abortion issue have looked to the future and agree on a scenario: Individual states will probably decide its legality.

Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion. In Texas, those who have long argued over the issue believe that President Bush's appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court eventually will push abortion back to the states to decide.

And while abortion might not dominate this season's elections, these elections could dominate the abortion debate.

"When it comes back to the state, it really does matter who your state rep is," said Sarah Wheat, executive director of Pro-Choice Texas.

Joe Pojman, director of Texas Alliance for Life, said his hope is that the abortion issue returns to states, where legislators are closer to the voters.

Abortion restrictions have been "extremely important in the Republican and Democratic primary for the past 15 years, and I expect that to continue this cycle," he said.

But beyond party activists, once the vote moves to the general election, the issue loses some of its heft among the voters, Mr. Pojman said.

"It's probably on their short list, but it's among other issues that are important to voters in a general election," he said.

But if the abortion question does become a state issue, he expects it to dominate the governor's race and statehouse contests.

Mr. Pojman remains confident that the restrictions won in recent Texas legislative sessions - parental consent for a minor's abortion, health restrictions for abortion facilities, 72-hour waiting periods and mandatory dissemination of materials that are aimed at dissuading women from having an abortion - would continue in broader limits.

But if abortions were banned in Texas, he said, they would still be available elsewhere.

"Not all state legislatures vote the way we would like them to vote," Mr. Pojman said.

Ms. Wheat said that she is concerned that if the Supreme Court overturns federal rights to a legal abortion, "each state will probably have a very different set of laws regarding abortion, and frankly contraception, too.

"The vast majority of Americans want abortion to be safe, legal and rare," she said.

But most voters are not energized by the issue and probably won't be until the Supreme Court changes the legal availability of abortion, she said.

"Right now, this is very much perceived as a federal issue and something that is out of the hands of the governor," Ms. Wheat said.



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