Gov. Greg Abbott stumbles when pressed at debate on Texas' restrictive abortion ban

When asked about rape and incest victims, the governor pointed to a state program that offers baby supplies to pregnant women.

click to enlarge Gov. Greg Abbott shows off his winning smile at a recent photo op. - Instagram / governorabbott
Instagram / governorabbott
Gov. Greg Abbott shows off his winning smile at a recent photo op.
During the only debate scheduled for Texas' 2022 gubernatorial race, Gov. Greg Abbott floundered to explain what options exist for victims of rape and incest under Texas' restrictive abortion ban, which he championed.

Thursday's televised debate between Abbott, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke was likely the pair's only-in person encounter before the November election. Each candidate had no longer than 60 seconds to respond to questions ranging from immigration to gun control to climate change. 

Abbott's most glaring gaffe of the night came in response to a question about Texas' automatic enactment of the most restrictive abortion ban in the country after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

"Some healthcare advocates say emergency contraception like Plan B is often unavailable or it's too costly for women to afford, and trauma could prevent them from taking emergency contraception in the timeframe it's effective," said moderator Sally Hernandez of Austin TV station KXAN. "So, Governor, with these concerns that I just laid out, is emergency contraception a viable alternative to victims of rape and incest?"

"It's incumbent upon the state of Texas to make sure that Plan B is readily available," Abbott responded, ignoring the issue of time frame that Hernandez mentioned in her inquiry.

The Mayo Clinic recommends taking the morning-after pill less than 72 hours after unprotected sex. Further, Planned Parenthood warns that the medication may not work for people who weigh more than 165 pounds.

"But Governor, I still want to know," Hernandez persisted. "Is Plan B the alternative when it comes to somebody who is pregnant from rape or incest?"

"Well, it depends what you mean by alternative," Abbott said. "An alternative obviously, uh, is, uh, to do what we can to assist and aid, uh, the victim. Uh, and that is to help get them medical assistance they need, uh, and the care that they need, but also to know what their options are. To know that the state, through our Alternatives to Abortion program, provides living assistance, baby supplies, all kinds of things that can help them."

Baby supplies. That was Abbott's response to rape victims being forced to carry their assailant's baby to term if they fail to take a Plan B pill in time or if the medication fails to work.

During the debate, Abbott also made a series of assertions that will likely send fact checkers scrambling.

Abbott stated that New York Mayor Eric Adams never called him after the Texas governor's office dispatched buses full of asylum seekers and to Adams' city, dropping them there.

The Republican governor also said it would be unconstitutional to raise the age at which a person can purchase an AR-15 back to 21 from 18.

What's more, he maintained that there were “no major issues" with Texas' electrical grid this summer, despite power plant failures and statewide conservation advisories for Texans to keep their air conditioners set at 78 degrees.

The debate had no live audience, and O’Rourke has proposed a series of town hall-format events to directly address voters’ concerns.

Ahead by several points in the polls, it says a lot that Abbott would prefer to tweet and only speak before like-minded crowds. Texas is one of 14 states without any limits on how long a governor can serve, basic human decency notwithstanding.

Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.