Despite What Rick Perry Says, Support for Safe, Legal Abortion is a Mainstream Value
Laws restricting abortion rights have recently swept the country like a flood—legislatures in Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin have all launched into high-profile debates over abortion-rights rollbacks in the past month.
The passage of these bills and Republican legislators' scarily effective job of controlling the rhetoric in the debates over abortion access have shaped the idea that most Americans are against abortion access. In Texas, Senator Wendy Davis and Governor Rick Perry recently offered up contrasting definitions of mainstream values on abortion. As Rick Perry signed the state's major abortion-rights restriction bill into law last Thursday, he said the bill cements "the foundation on which the culture of life in Texas is built upon." Meanwhile, Senator Wendy Davis reflected that her now-infamous 13-hour filibuster "was an expression of mainstream Texans standing up against partisan power-mongers who no longer act in Texas' best interest."
Polling shows that the opposition to abortion is not a "foundation" of our culture, as Perry claims. In fact, the opposite is true: a majority of Americans support keeping abortion access intact. But legislators tend to assume that voters are more conservative than they actually are--especially among certain demographics.
As The Hill puts it, there is a common misconception among politicians that Latino voters, specifically, are likely to be conservative on abortion issues. "Traditional thinking—at least among many elected officials and political operatives—goes something like this: Latinos are socially conservative, strongly Catholic, and therefore they must be opposed to legal abortion," reports The Hill. In fact, a 2011 poll found that "a strong majority of Latino registered voters – 74 percent – agrees that a woman has a right to make her own personal, private decisions about abortion without politicians interfering." A second poll, conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, found that second-generation Hispanic people are even more likely to approve of legal abortion than their parents.
Conservative groups have tried in the past attempts to drive a wedge between people of color and pro-choice advocates. Ryan Bomberger's anti-abortion group, the Radiance Foundation, for example, produced the controversial "Black children are an endangered species" campaign in 2011 and littered nearly 200 billboards in Georgia with the sentiment. Another extremely offensive billboard campaign by group Life Always included signs that read "The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb." One board member of Life Always framed abortion as a "genocidal plot" against black people.
But in a poll sponsored by the Reproductive Justice Communications Strategies this winter, on the 40th anniversary of the Roe w. Wade decision, 80 percent of African Americans told researchers that abortion should be legal and 91 percent agreed that "instead of making abortion illegal, we should help prevent unintended pregnancy with high quality sex education and making birth control available."
This much is clear to the American public: Supporting sex-ed, affordable birth control, and legal abortion are not radical ideas.
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