Texas Democrats have lined up behind pro-abortion heroine Wendy Davis in opposition to a bill that bans late-term abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. That might be a good idea to solidify the left-wing base of the Democratic Party, but it is turning off a key constituency — Hispanics.
As Politico notes, polls repeatedly show Hispanics are pro-life and the statewide, and national, attention on opposition to the abortion ban can’t be doing Democrats any favors with them. As President George W. Bushed showed, a pro-life candidate who can directly appeal to Hispanic voters can get good results — with his election efforts winning the support of 40 percent of Hispanics.
In their candid moments, Democrats acknowledge that abortion isn’t the issue they would have picked to lead the pitch for Latino votes. The fight was forced upon them, they say, when Gov. Rick Perry added the anti-abortion bill to last month’s special session and revived it in a second special session that started July 1.
“Is this the issue we would have picked to turn Texas blue? No,” Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said with a laugh. “It was kind of thrust at us. We didn’t pick it.”
On the surface, at least, the polls don’t look promising for a party that’s basking in the national spotlight because of a fight over abortion rights. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 53 percent of Hispanic Catholics say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. That’s a lower percentage than white evangelical Protestants and Mormons, but it’s higher than all other religious voting groups, including white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, black Protestants, and Jews.
And Steve Munisteri, the chairman of the Texas Republican Party, cited a poll by the Wilson Perkins Allen research firm that found a 2-1 “pro-life” margin among the state’s Hispanic voters. The poll, conducted for the state GOP, showed that 62 percent of Texas Hispanics who voted in the 2012 election described themselves as pro-life while just 32 percent called themselves pro-choice, according to Chris Perkins, the pollster who worked on the survey.
Some Democratic strategists say the key to winning over Latinos is to avoid focusing too much on any one issue — especially abortion.
Matt Angle says the party’s candidates should develop a broader pitch on a whole range of issues that are important to Latinos, but one powerful message, he says, is “overreach” by imposing such strict health and safety standards that many of the state’s health clinics have to shut down.
“If it’s only about one issue, then you’re going to fall short someplace,” said Angle, a longtime state strategist who has worked on other projects to rebuild Democratic strength.
A May 2009 poll of Latino voters showed 47 percent wanted abortions illegal, 38 percent disagreed and 15 percent had no opinion.
Raimundo Rojas, the Hispanic Outreach Coordinator for the National Right to Life Committee, previously told LifeNews.com that “in this country, we Hispanics bring our morals and our cultural abhorrence for abortion with us when we migrate.”
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“Though some Hispanic political groups back abortion, the vast majority of us know what’s right,” Rojas explained. “We know that every child has a place en nuestras casas y nuestras familias — our homes and families. We know and cherish and honor the sanctity of motherhood and of life.”
The Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute polled Hispanic immigrants in the Washington metropolitan area. The study consisted of 279 one-on-one interviews among immigrants of Hispanic descent.
In total, 83 percent of the Hispanics in the survey oppose abortion CHLI said and, even among liberals, 60% oppose abortion.
More specifically, 52 percent said they strongly opposed abortion and 28 percent said they were somewhat opposed to abortion. Only 15 percent said they support legal abortions.
Sponsored by the Washington-based Latino Coalition, a January 2006 poll found 57 percent of Hispanics described themselves as “pro-life” while just 27 percent called themselves “pro-choice.” Some 15 percent said they weren’t sure where they stood on the issue of abortion.