Michael Sean Winters is taking Wendy Davis’ “lackluster” gubernatorial campaign in Texas as evidence that Democrats are barking up the wrong tree with pro-choice candidates, especially in states like Texas with emerging Latino majorities, since “Latinos are not culturally liberal”:
The way for Democrats to turn Texas purple is to nominate a pro-life candidate who is committed to economic policies that lift up the poor and the marginalized, in short, a Catholic candidate.
As a group, Hispanics do tend to be more conservative on abortion than the general population; the 2012 Pew Hispanic Survey found that 51% of adult Hispanics say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, versus 41% of all Americas.
But a closer look at the polling suggests that conservative attitudes toward abortion are less likely to hold in the emerging Latino majority. The Pew survey found that almost all the difference in Hispanic attitudes about abortion could be accounted for by greater conservatism among immigrant Hispanics:
Nearly six-in-ten (58%) immigrant Hispanics say abortion should mainly be illegal. By contrast, just 40% of second-generation Hispanics and 43% of third-generation Hispanics say abortion should be mainly illegal. The views of second- and third-generation Hispanics closely match those of the general U.S. public.
Younger Hispanics are also more likely to be liberal on abortion. A majority (53%) of Latinos age 18–29 support legal abortion; support for legal abortion declines with age and is lowest among the oldest Latinos, with 63% age 65 and older saying abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
With young and native-born Latinos making up an increasing share of the growing Hispanic population, it is likely that overall Latinos will continue to liberalize on the issue of abortion.
And a 2012 survey of Hispanic attitudes about social issues by the Public Religion Research Institute found that Hispanic Americans show the same pattern of partisan polarization on abortion as the general public:
On the issue of abortion, almost three-quarters (72%) of registered Hispanic Democrats believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases while nearly two-thirds (66%) of registered Hispanic Republicans say it should be illegal.
PPRI concluded that Hispanics are “not susceptible to being cross-pressured” on social issues:
[T]he stark differences between Hispanic Democrats (and independents who lean Democratic) and Hispanic Republicans (and independents who lean Republican) suggest that social issues are not a wedge issue among Hispanic partisans.
Not only are Latinos becoming more liberal on abortion and tending to toe their party’s line, but the stringent new restrictions on abortion in Texas, which forced the closure of every single abortion clinic in the heavily Hispanic Rio Grande Valley (one has since reopened while portions of the law are enjoined), may engender a backlash in the Hispanic community against such supposedly “pro-life” laws.
As Andrea Grimes reported in RH Reality Check, it’s unlikely that the 2,600 women who got abortions at the shuttered clinics will miraculously find ways to “continue unplanned pregnancies they would otherwise have terminated.” Instead, they will likely turn to self-induced abortions, either by buying the abortion drug misoprostol illegally, trying herbs or laxatives, or by “inserting objects into their vaginas or exerting external trauma on their bodies to try and end their pregnancies.”
Grimes notes that self-induced abortions were already higher in Texas, especially in the poor Rio Grande Valley border region, where 12 percent of women reported self-induced abortions even before the closure of the clinics. One doctor alone saw 100 patients who needed him to complete botched self-induced abortions in the six weeks after the new restrictions went into effect.
How “pro-life” will these laws, or the politicians who push them, look when low-income Latinas start dying from botched abortions? Where’s the social justice in forcing women who are already among the least of us to bring into the world children that they know they can’t care for?
Winters pooh-poohs Davis’ filibuster against the abortion restrictions and Democratic efforts to push back on Republican cuts to funding for family planning services as ginned up political strategy. The Democrats may be capitalizing on the issue, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a real reproductive healthcare crisis in the state. And while a “pro-life” Democrat who at least supports access to contraception and social services for pregnant women might do less harm, he or she would still be playing God with women’s health.