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Jessica Cisneros has long zeroed in on Rep. Henry Cuellar's abortion stance. Photos: Getty Images
Jessica Cisneros has long zeroed in on Rep. Henry Cuellar's abortion stance. Photos: Getty Images

Jessica Cisneros doubles down on anti-choice opponent Rep. Henry Cuellar after Roe v. Wade leak

The longtime Democratic Latino rep and progressive powerhouse are set to face off again in a runoff primary election on May 24.

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Texas Democratic House candidate Jessica Cisneros is urging her party’s congressional leaders to renounce their support for her main opponent, Rep. Henry Cuellar, due to his staunch opposition to abortion. 

“As the Supreme Court prepares to overturn Roe v. Wade, I am calling on Democratic Party leadership to withdraw their support of Henry Cuellar who is the last anti-choice Democrat in the House,” Cisneros said in a statement on Wednesday, May 4. 

Cisneros also said that with the House majority up for grabs, Cuellar could be the deciding vote on the future of abortion access and that is not a risk the nation can afford to take. 

Cuellar is currently endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries. 

Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, told NBC News that Cisneros’ move to target Cuellar’s anti-choice stance is a wise one, adding that the leak of the draft opinion is an unexpected gift for her and a “plague” for Cuellar. 

Cisneros, who is endorsed by several abortion rights advocacy groups and progressives Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, has called out Cuellar for being the only Democrat to vote against the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have made Roe v. Wade into federal law. 

Cuellar continues to stand by his long held objection to abortion, claiming that he has always been pro-life due to his Catholic upbringing and faith. However, he did state that there should be exceptions in cases of sexual assault, incest and danger to the life of the pregnant person. 

“My faith will not allow me to support a ruling that would criminalize teenage victims of rape and incest. That same faith will not allow me to support a ruling that would make a mother choose between her life and her child’s,” Cuellar said. 

In his statement, he affirmed his opposition to the procedure, but denounced the likely ruling, saying that it was unprecedented and would only serve to divide the nation further “during these already divisive times.”  

Cisneros told The Texas Tribune that she broke a personal rule of not checking social media at night because she wanted to check out the Met Gala fashion. In doing so, she was shocked to discover that the Supreme Court appeared ready to go further than expected in diminishing reproductive rights. 

However, Cisneros said it won’t affect her strategy because abortion has always been one of her central issues in her campaign against Cuellar. 

“Unfortunately, a future where Roe is overturned is a future that we know Henry Cuellar has been fighting for,” she said.

According to a May 2 report from the Texas Politics Project, a majority of Texas residents oppose an automatic ban on all abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

Just last month, Texas resident Lizelle Hererra was charged with murder over an alleged self-induced abortion in Starr County. The charges were dismissed after she spent three days in jail, but the case drew national headlines. 

Cisneros told the San Antonio Express-News that these kinds of cases could increase if Cuellar is elected for another term. 

With the Democratic runoff three weeks away, Cuellar’s current ads still primarily focus on border security, but Cisneros is cracking down on Cuellar for being “the lone Democrat” in the House who voted against preserving the constitutional right to abortion. 

On Monday, May 2, before the Supreme Court opinion draft was leaked, NARAL Pro-Choice America, which has endorsed Cisneros in both 2020 and 2022, publicized a new mobilization effort ahead of the runoffs, highlighting her position as a warrior for health care access. 

“With so much at stake for reproductive freedom, we need a champion. NARAL is working hard through this primary to ensure Cisneros can be that champion,” Deputy Political Director Courtney Federico said in a statement.

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