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Texas abortion ban reverberates from White House to state houses

From the White House to state houses, from Congress to the campaign trail, when it comes to abortion, what happens in Texas won't stay in Texas.

Five conservative Supreme Court justices gave the green light to Texas Republicans overnight, clearing the way for the state's outlandish abortion ban to continue. For all intents and purposes, the Roe v. Wade protections that Americans have enjoyed for the last half-century no longer apply in the nation's second largest state.

None of this, however, has happened in a vacuum. The dramatic developments are already reverberating far outside the Lone Star State.

In other state capitols:

It didn't take long for observers to realize that if the Supreme Court's conservative majority is willing to tolerate the Texas Republicans' abortion ban, opponents of reproductive rights in other states can simply adopt — and implement — Texas-style statutes of their own.

Indeed, Wilton Simpson, the Republican president of Florida's state Senate, suggested this morning that he and his colleagues are "already working on" such a proposal. NBC News' Sahil Kapur noted soon after that bills copying Texas' law "are in the works in other Republican-led states."

At the White House:

President Joe Biden this morning issued a written statement, which read in part, "I am directing that Council and the Office of the White House Counsel to launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to see what steps the federal government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas' bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties."

On Capitol Hill:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement of her own this morning, not only denouncing Texas' abortion ban, but also vowing to bring the Women's Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755), which is designed to enshrine reproductive health care for all women into federal law. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has endorsed the same approach.

Those legislative efforts, however, face insurmountable odds, at least in the short term. Even if the Democratic-led House were to pass such a measure, the bill would be subject to an inevitable Republican filibuster. And even if the Democratic-led Senate were to put the filibuster rule aside, such a bill would fail anyway: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia remains opposed to reproductive rights.

On the 2021 campaign trail:

In this year's gubernatorial races, Republicans have not been especially eager to talk about reproductive rights. Now, they don't have much of a choice.

Politico reported this morning, "The new Texas abortion ban is refocusing both parties' attention on races for state office over the next year, setting the stage for a clash over abortion rights at the ballot box. On Wednesday, outraged Democrats sought to drag the issue of abortion rights into elections across the country, particularly in two key, blue-state governor's races this fall: California and Virginia."

In Virginia, in particular, Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee, told voters during the GOP gubernatorial primary that he "can't" say too much about abortion before the election. He added, however, "When I'm governor and I have a majority in the House we can start going on offense. But as a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won't win [me] independent votes that I have to get."

The relevance of that quote grew with the Supreme Court's ruling late Wednesday.

On the 2022 campaign trail:

The midterm elections are still over a year away, but the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is already emphasizing that reproductive rights will be central to the party's 2022 messaging.

In response to developments in Texas, the DSCC said in a written statement, "This attack on women's health care is a powerful reminder of the stakes in next year's election — and why we must defend a Democratic Senate majority with the power to confirm or reject Supreme Court justices. The freedom for women to make our own health care decisions is on the ballot in 2022, and the contrast between the parties on this issue is crystal clear: while Senate Democrats are committed to protecting and expanding access to affordable health care for women and families, Republicans have shown they'll use every tool they can, from the courts to Congress, to try and strip away health care coverage from women and families."

Democratic state parties in states like New Hampshire and Florida — both of which will be home to key Senate contests next year — are pushing similar messages.

All of which is to say, when it comes to abortion, what happens in Texas won't stay in Texas.

Postscript: Republican leaders at the state level have been awfully quiet about reproductive rights this week, haven't they? It's a reminder that they realize that outside of the GOP's base, this is not a winning issue for the party.