Poll: Texas Latinos support choice when it comes to abortion

This article was originally posted on The Monitor.

Results of a recent survey commissioned by a women’s reproductive health advocacy group found that many Latinos vote in line with Democratic pro-choice policies — not religious doctrine that bans abortions.

The poll, commissioned by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, found that 60 percent of Latinos in Texas said abortion should be legal regardless of whether church leaders take a stand against it. And 78 percent of respondents said a woman has the right to make her own personal decisions about abortions without politicians interfering.

“Just because a Latino person identifies as religious does not mean they blindly follow positions of church leaders when it comes to the law,” said Kimberly Inez McGuire, the institute’s director of public affairs, adding that many may be pro-life personally but want choice to remain under state law.

Pro-life supporters dismissed the poll’s validity, saying it was commissioned by pro-choice advocates.

“It’s an interest group that supports abortion. They are definitely using selective terminology; you’ll notice unborn child rights aren’t ever talked about in there,” said Emily Horne, legislative assistant for the Texas Right to Life group.

Conducted by Washington-based PerryUndem research, survey questions were asked in both English and Spanish. It included 603 people who identified as Latino and said they “always” or “frequently” vote in elections.

The findings are in stark contrast to recent Pew Research Foundation results, which have shown consistently that the majority of Latinos believe abortion should be illegal.

The Pew survey asked whether abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in most cases, or illegal in all cases and was posed to more than 1,200 Hispanic respondents in 2011 nationwide. In that survey, 51 percent said abortion should be illegal in all/most cases. Just two years later, out of 5,000 Hispanic participants across the nation, 53 percent agreed to the same question.

That contrasts with Americans across all ethnicities, where 54 percent of respondents in a 2013 Pew study believed abortion should be legal.

Organizers of the National Latina Institute survey said questions on the Pew survey are flawed and attitudes in every community are more complex, with people’s decisions are based on experiences.

Instead of asking if abortion should be legal or not, the PerryUndem poll asked respondents if decisions about abortions should be a personal choice.

“The actual effect of restrictive state laws in Texas is that it takes the decision away from the woman,” McGuire said.

Such a situation has played out in McAllen, where the area’s lone abortion clinic has opened and closed as Texas’ restrictive abortion law moved its way through appellate courts. The U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay this month that allows Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen to remain open ahead of a ruling on the state’s abortion law.  

Nearly 60 percent of respondents said increased restrictions on abortion that have occurred in the past three years in Texas are a step in the wrong direction, according to the PerryUndem poll.  

But Horne, the pro-life advocate, said the more indicative poll on Texans’ attitudes about abortion is happening at the ballot box. 

Horne pointed to how Wendy Davis’ campaign for governor hinges on pro-choice sentiments among voters. Davis was vaulted into the statewide political spotlight last year after she filibustered the bill on the Texas Senate floor, temporarily preventing the abortion restrictions from being voted upon.

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