Where Latino Members of Congress Stand on Abortion Rights

Jul 25, 2022
4:59 PM

Reps. Veronica Escobar, D-TX, second from the right, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, far right, were arrested at an abortion rights protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

It’s been a month since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and abortion is now banned in at least eight states, including Texas, one of the states with the largest Latino population.

Latinos make up a small percentage of Congress, a little over eight percent. Of the 45 Latinos currently serving in Congress, 18 (40 percent) represent states where abortion is banned, restricted, or expected to have restrictions soon—Alex Mooney (R-WV), whose state had its abortion ban blocked by a judge last Monday. With more bans expected to follow in the coming weeks, abortion access is anticipated to be a key issue amongst voters in the midterm elections this fall.

Seven in 10 Latino Americans oppose making all abortions illegal at any time under any circumstance, according to an Axios/Ipsos poll in partnership with Telemundo. The poll found a generational divide among Latinos, with 41 percent of first-generation Latinos saying abortion should be legal, and 59 percent and 62 percent of second and third-generation Latinos saying the same, respectively.

There are six Latino senators and 39 representatives in Congress. Most of the senators represent states where abortion is legal or protected, including California, New Mexico, Nevada, and New Jersey. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) represent states where abortion is banned or restricted.

Most Latino representatives are also from states where abortion is legal or protected. All seven representatives who come from a state where abortion is banned represent Texas, including Democrats Joaquin Castro, Henry Cuellar, Veronica Escobar, Sylvia Garcia, Vicente Gonzalez, and Republicans Tony Gonzales and Mayra Flores.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the state can enforce a 1925 abortion ban, making abortion providers vulnerable to lawsuits and financial penalties if they continue to carry out the procedure. Regardless of whether the 1925 law is enforced, Texas’ trigger ban is set to take effect later this summer.

Capitol Police arrested Rep. Escobar on Tuesday along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) during an abortion rights protest outside the Supreme Court. Capitol Police said on Twitter that they gave three standard warnings and arrested 35 people, including 17 members of Congress, for blocking the street.

Rep. Garcia joined the protest but was not arrested, reported the Texas Tribune.

“My arrest today for civil disobedience was a small act in the centuries-long battle to ensure every woman has the freedom to make personal decisions with those they love and trust without politicians trying to control them,” Escobar said in a statement on Tuesday.

Just a few days before Escobar’s arrest, the House voted on the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022, a bill that aims to protect the right to travel freely across state lines when seeking an abortion. The bill passed the House with 223-205 votes.

Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) had introduced the bill, and all Texas Democratic representatives signed on as cosponsors, except Cuellar and Gonzalez, though both voted for the measure in the end.

Cuellar, labeled “the last anti-choice Democrat in the House by his then-primary challenger, Jessica Cisneros, was the only House Democrat to vote against the Women’s Health Protect Act last year.

After a draft of the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization —which overturned Roe—was leaked in early May, Cuellar issued a statement saying he “does not support abortion,” the Associated Press reported.

“As a Catholic, I do not support abortion, however, we cannot have an outright ban,” Cuellar wrote. “There must be exceptions in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.”

Sen. Cruz long believed that Roe v. Wade needed to be overturned, calling Roe “one of the worst Supreme Court opinions ever written” in a tweet last June.

He celebrated the decision, as it returns the question of abortion access to the states. “This is a momentous day, and yet the fight for life doesn’t end with the Dobbs decision. It simply begins a new chapter,” Cruz tweeted on the day of the reversal.

Eight other Latino representatives hail from states where abortion is restricted or expected to have restrictions implemented soon. Five represent Florida, including Republicans Mario Díaz-Balart, Carlos A. Giménez, María Elvira Salazar, and Democrat Darren Soto.

On Thursday, an appeals court permitted Florida’s 15-week abortion limit, denying abortion clinics’ request to temporarily block the law.

Florida’s Latino delegation has remained quiet on the appeals court decision, but Soto tweeted about the 15-week ban law on the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe. “Ultimately there is one major remedy left for citizens across America who are outraged by this terrible decision. You can vote,” Soto tweeted. “When a large majority of Americans vote, we win.”

“This decision is long overdue,” Díaz-Balart said in a statement. “The Supreme Court is to be commended.”

Democrats Reps. Ruben Gallego and Raúl Grijalva represent Arizona, where the state’s attorney general asked the courts to put into effect a law that predates Roe and bans abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest and that crimininalizes providers.

Republican Alex Mooney is the only Latino representative for West Virginia, where last Monday a state judge temporarily blocked a 19th-century abortion ban, the Associated Press reported. The state’s only clinic challenged the ban in court and may now continue providing abortions.

Rep. Mooney joined Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) and 55 other House Republicans in sending a letter to President Joe Biden demanding that he rescind his abortion rights executive order.

“There is no ‘right to abortion’ in the U.S. Constitution. The word ‘abortion’ is never even mentioned in the Constitution. The Biden administration is seeking to circumvent rulings of the Supreme Court and state legislatures throughout the country,” Mooney tweeted.

All House seats are up for reelection this year, and all of the Latino representatives are running for reelection this year with the exception of Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH).

“While my desire to build a fuller family life is at the heart of my decision, it is also true that the current state of our politics, especially many of the toxic dynamics inside our own party, is a significant factor in my decision [to no run for reelection],” Gonzalez said in a statement last September.

Of the Latino senators in office, three are running for reelection this year, including Alex Padilla (D-CA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Rubio. Masto made history when she won in 2016, becoming the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate.

Nevada state law protects abortion and can only be changed by a voter referendum, so Masto’s fight for protecting abortion rights is focused on protecting reproductive rights at the federal level. “With Roe gone, extremists are planning to pass a federal abortion ban if they retake the Senate,” wrote Masto tweeted in June.


Chantal Vaca is a summer correspondent for Futuro Media based in New York City and a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism. Twitter: @VacaChantal