Presumptive Democratic Senatorial nominee and current U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke stressed the importance of family planning clinics during a town hall in San Marcos, Texas on Monday.
The subject of family planning clinics was brought up by a woman concerned that Republicans are trying to "take away women's rights" and worried that religion might "take over government."
"I want to ask about what you think about the GOP and the far right trying to take away women's rights, and what we can do about that, because we're crossing that fine line of having religion take over government," the Texas resident asked O'Rourke.
The candidate started by saying that Texas leads the country and developed world in the rate of maternal mortality, arguing family planning centers like Planned Parenthood are needed to reduce that rate.
O'Rourke said it was "common sense" to keep family planning clinics open.
When we close down so many of our family planning clinics in this state, when we as you say allow religion to trump common sense, and science, and medicine, and the best advice of our doctors and our providers, you make it harder for women to get a cervical cancer screening, to get family planning help, or even just to see a provider who will make the life or death difference for them.
O'Rourke argued that Texans, regardless of political affiliation, should support family planning centers.
"It doesn't matter how pro-choice or pro-life you describe yourself as being. Having this as our distinction right now is unconscionable," he said, referring to the mortality rate.
The candidate went on to express his support specifically for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The organization is the country’s largest abortion provider with affiliates performing more than 300,000 abortions per year.
"We had a spike in abortions performed as we closed down a quarter of the family planning clinics in the state," O'Rourke said. "There is no Planned Parenthood in El Paso, Texas … It's really hard for young women in that community to seek family planning help, and we have some really tragic outcomes as a consequence."
He told the audience that his mother agrees with him on the issue despite considering herself pro-life and her "single greatest disappointment" being the fact "her son is not more faithful in attending mass every Sunday."
"She and I can at least agree on these three points, that Texas should not lead in these areas. Having more of these clinics open and accessible to more women in Texas is going to save more lives. And so know that is going to be a priority for us," O'Rourke said.
O'Rourke is expected to face Sen. Ted Cruz (R.) in the November election.