Opinion: On abortion rights, Latinos distinguish between religious, political beliefs
Contrary to popular belief, strong majorities of Latinos support abortion rights. (Flickr: Steve Rhodes)
By LUCY PANZA
Research released Thursday found that Latinos are overwhelmingly supportive of abortion rights, marking an important step toward understanding the nuanced views within Hispanic communities.
The results of this bilingual survey, conducted by Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners in association with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, show that 74% of Latino registered voters either agree or strongly agree that a woman has a right to make her own personal, private decisions about abortion without politicians interfering. Fewer than one in five (18%) disagree with that statement.
Despite the unrelenting political rhetoric demonizing the issue of abortion rights, Hispanic voters rely on their own personal experiences to make up their minds.
Other key findings:
- Nearly seven in ten Latino voters (68 percent) agree with the statement “even though church leaders take a position against abortion, when it comes to the law, I believe it should remain legal.”
- A majority of Latino voters (61 percent) agree that money should not determine whether a woman can obtain an abortion when she needs one.
- Two-thirds of Latino voters (67 percent) say they would support a close friend or family member who had an abortion.
- Nearly three in four Latino registered voters (73 percent) agree that we should not judge someone who feels s/he is not ready to be a parent.
As the Latina Institute states, these findings not only challenge the common misconception thatLatinos are largely anti-choice – they also show that Latinos make distinctions between their religious and political beliefs. What is clear is that Latinos are not responding to anti-abortion rights rhetoric that stigmatizes the one out of three U.S. women who will have an abortion by age 45.
Compelling themes emerge from this important research: compassion for a woman in a difficult situation who is trying to make the best decision for herself and her family; an unwillingness to judge others’ personal decision making; a desire to protect one’s own privacy and reproductive freedom from political interference; and equal access to quality health care regardless of economic status.
Indeed, these themes resound with our shared American values of freedom, opportunity, equality, justice, and human dignity for all.
As the 2012 election cycle gets underway, this timely poll should cause incumbent and aspiring elected officials to reevaluate their assumptions about Latino voters, particularly on social issues like economic justice and reproductive rights.
The Latino population is rapidly evolving: the latest Census found that Latinos are the fastest growing population in the United States. Thanks to this growth, Texas is slated to gain four seats in the House of Representatives, more than any other state. The only constant among Latino voters, it seems, is change – and that change is trending toward an increasingly progressive identity.
Thanks to this important research, we can continue to deconstruct the stereotypes our culture perpetuates about Latinos, including their stance on reproductive rights. Hopefully, we will come to understand that on an issue as intensely personal as abortion, political pandering just doesn’t work.
Lucy Panza is a Policy Analyst with the Women’s Health and Rights Program at American Progress.