Texas vow to ‘eliminate all rapists’ rings hollow at clinics

Sep 24, 2022, 6:46 PM | Updated: Sep 25, 2022, 9:09 am
Evidence tape is seen with a Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit in an examination room, Wednesd...

Evidence tape is seen with a Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit in an examination room, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Austin, Texas. After a Texas law banning abortions past about six weeks, even in cases of rape or incest, went into effect a year ago, Gov. Greg Abbott said the state would strive to "eliminate all rapists from the streets." (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

              A Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit, or Rape Kit, rests on a table in an examination room, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Austin, Texas. After a Texas law banning abortions past about six weeks, even in cases of rape or incest, went into effect a year ago, Gov. Greg Abbott said the state would strive to "eliminate all rapists from the streets." (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
            
              A Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit, or Rape Kit, is unpacked in an examination room, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Austin, Texas. After a Texas law banning abortions past about six weeks, even in cases of rape or incest, went into effect a year ago, Gov. Greg Abbott said the state would strive to "eliminate all rapists from the streets." (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
            
              A Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit, or Rape Kit, rests on a table in an examination room, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Austin, Texas. After a Texas law banning abortions past about six weeks, even in cases of rape or incest, went into effect a year ago, Gov. Greg Abbott said the state would strive to "eliminate all rapists from the streets." (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
            
              A Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit, or Rape Kit, is unpacked in an examination room, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Austin, Texas. After a Texas law banning abortions past about six weeks, even in cases of rape or incest, went into effect a year ago, Gov. Greg Abbott said the state would strive to "eliminate all rapists from the streets." (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
            
              Evidence tape is seen with a Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit in an examination room, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Austin, Texas. After a Texas law banning abortions past about six weeks, even in cases of rape or incest, went into effect a year ago, Gov. Greg Abbott said the state would strive to "eliminate all rapists from the streets." (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — When Texas’ new 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 year later, Lindsey LeBlanc is busy as ever helping rape victims in a college 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 in the past six months, she still has a waitlist for victims.

“We are struggling to keep up with demand,” she said.

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

The absence of exceptions has caused divisions among Republicans, including in West Virginia, where a new law signed this month allows a brief window for rape and incest victims to obtain abortions only if they report to law enforcement first. Recently, South Carolina Republicans scuttled a proposed ban after failing to get enough GOP support.

“It really disgusts me,” said Republican South Carolina state Sen. Katrina Shealy, ripping into her male colleagues on the floor 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 chance of passing, with even GOP leaders not immediately backing it, reflecting how Republicans have broadly struggled to navigate the issue of abortion with voters since the 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 very gray issue,” said Claudia Alcazar, the GOP chairwoman in Starr County along the Texas-Mexico border that has become a new political battleground after Republicans made big gains with more conservative Hispanic voters in 2020.

She said she knows those who are “hardcore, never have abortion for any reason, period. And then I have the other ones that are like, ‘Well, you know, it depends.'”

In Texas, the blowback was swift when Abbott said last September: “Texas will work tirelessly to make sure 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 year — putting it on track to exceed last year’s volume of 4,843.

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

Asked what Abbott has done in the past year to eliminate rape, spokeswoman Renae Eze highlighted older measures to clear rape test kit backlogs, a law signed in June aimed at coordinating and expanding sexual assault resources and a task force his office launched in 2019 to address the issue.

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

More than 14,000 rape crimes have been reported in Texas since the law took effect last year, according to data from the Texas Department of Public Safety. That was slightly down from the year before and consistent with a decline in other violent crime figures across the state.

Crisis centers in Texas say the number of rape victims they’ve accompanied to hospitals for exams is rebounding since the pandemic restrictions kept advocates from entering. The Women’s Center in Fort Worth has made more than 650 visits to counsel victims undergoing exams in the past year compared to about 340 in the year prior, said Alisha Mathenia, the assistant director of crisis services at the center.

The majority 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 a person known to the victim, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

“We’re not talking about a large of number of rapists walking around on the street. 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 important for the state to live in the reality that we have to respond to sexual assault,” she said.

___

Stengle reported from Dallas.

___

Find more AP coverage of the abortion issue: https://apnews.com/hub/abortion

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

murders...
Associated Press

Appeals court upholds most Eyman campaign finance violations

A Washington state Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld most of the campaign finance violations that longtime anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman was found liable for last year.
19 hours ago
A Washington State Department of Agriculture worker displays an Asian giant hornet taken from a nes...
Associated Press

No northern giant hornets found in 2022 in Washington state

Citizen trapping of northern giant hornets in northwest Washington ended Nov. 30 without any confirmed sightings of the hornets this year, state officials said Tuesday.
19 hours ago
FILE - Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper watches during warm ups before an NFL football game bet...
Associated Press

Panthers owner settles tax fight over failed practice space

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina county where Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper started building and then abandoned a new practice facility has reached a settlement over $21 million in sales tax money given to the NFL team. Tepper will pay back the money, and York County agreed its dispute was totally resolved with […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Deep, 5.8 magnitude quake shakes Indonesia’s capital

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A strong and deep earthquake shook Indonesia’s capital and other parts of the main island Java on Thursday but there were no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties. High-rises in Jakarta, the capital, swayed for several seconds and some ordered evacuations. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 5.8 magnitude earthquake […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Military personnel watch as Air Force One, with President Donald Trump, aboard prepares to d...
Associated Press

Boeing’s last 747 to roll out of Washington state factory

SEATTLE (AP) — After more than half a century, the last Boeing 747 rolled out of a Washington state factory on Tuesday. The 747 jumbo jet has taken on numerous roles — a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, and the Air Force One presidential aircraft — since it debuted […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Jailed, former Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina attends his pre-trial hearing for alle...
Associated Press

Guatemalan court convicts ex-president of fraud, conspiracy

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A court in Guatemala convicted former President Otto Pérez Molina and his vice president, Roxana Baldetti, on fraud and conspiracy counts Wednesday. Their sentences have yet to be announced. Both were acquitted of illegal enrichment charges. Pérez Molina and Baldetti resigned in 2015 and have been in custody on charges of […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Texas vow to ‘eliminate all rapists’ rings hollow at clinics