By Bill Sarno, CTLatinoNews.com
As a wave of anti-abortion victories sweep across President Trump’s “red states” base, lead by Alabama’s no-exceptions law, the question arises in Connecticut as to whether similar measures can happen here.
The answer is not likely soon. Connecticut’s abortion laws are among the most liberal in the nation with no restrictions, such as waiting periods, mandated parental involvement or limitations on publicly funded abortions.
Still, for many Latinos, there exists a tenuous balance between strong personal feelings against abortion in most cases, based on deep-seated religious and cultural norms, and more liberalizing tendencies that have them active on both sides of the issue.
According to a recent Pew Research Center study, most Hispanic evangelical and Catholic churchgoers are allied with conservative Republicans in efforts to push back against the state’s liberal abortion environment but others “are in the forefront of women’s right to choose”
However, while Hispanics take a dimmer view of legalizing abortion than the general public as well as white and African-Americans this opposition seems to be shrinking. At the same time, there also is the disconcerting reality that Latinas are more likely to have abortions than white women.
“Abortion among Hispanics has been a tense subject driven by a conservative tradition,” explained Miguel Castro, chairman of the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Coalition. “The subject has been challenged by a liberal generation, that has implemented prevention initiatives, and advocated for exceptions on abortion such as incest, rape,” the Meriden council member added.
Several Hispanics were among the Connecticut residents who testified against the legislation (HB-7070) aimed at curbing what pro-choice supporters consider to be deceptive advertising by anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers.” The Democrat-sponsored bill passed the House on a party-line vote but its fate was pending when the Senate adjourned June 5.
In the political arena, Ruben Rodriquez, a conservative Republican running for Congress in the Fifth District, plans to incorporate pro-life positions in his campaign. He said that he has talked to several church leaders and they are supportive.
In 2016, a Pew Research Center study found that 53 percent of Hispanic adults said abortion should be illegal in all or more cases, with Catholics, evangelical Christians, and foreign-born Latinos posting even higher percentages.
Two years later, 49 percent of Hispanic adults surveyed by Pew said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 44 percent said it should be illegal. In the same survey, 60 percent of black and 61 percent of white U.S. adults said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
An explanation for the change is provided by Yolanda Negron, who was Windham’s first Hispanic town council member and has been active in the community for several decades. She said that “religion plays a big role for Puerto Ricans and other Latino groups … but in both in Puerto Rico and here, the younger women (below 55 or so), are, tending to be more open-minded. Then again, church attendance is also lower.”
Another perspective was provided by Castro, who observed that many Latinos are actually pro-choice but think they are pro-life. “They would never personally get an abortion or like the idea of abortion but realize that when it’s legal it’s safe,” the Democrat explained.
He also noted, “The Puerto Rican community, although it embraces a conservative value, has been at the forefront of women’s right to choose.”
The difference between Connecticut and Alabama was underscored by state Senator Will Haskell who said, “Lately, it feels like we’re operating in two separate worlds.”
As a point of comparison, the Fairfield County Democrat stated in an op-ed column recently legislation pending in Connecticut “not only defends a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body but actually helps to strengthen reproductive health and freedom,”
An example of this type of measure is HB 7070, which targets what pro-choice supporters consider to be deceptive advertising by anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers.” Two of H.B.7070 sponsors are state Reps. Hilda Santiago and Antonio Felipe.
Sen. Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat, testified that crisis pregnancy organizations attempt to look like legitimate family planning clinics, while actually providing medically inaccurate information.
Looney added, that CPCs frequently target urban neighborhoods and other medically underserved communities where people do not have access to regular gynecology services.
During the legislative hearing on H.B. 7070, Molly Hurtado, executive director, ABC Women’s Center, stated, “The bill assumes that pregnant women and their partners seeking information on making a pregnancy decision are only interested in abortion. The need for abortion alternatives for pregnant women is so great, our state could use more support agencies, not less.”
Located in Middletown, ABC Women’s Center advertises it provides information about abortions but does “not perform or refer for abortions.” It also offers information on abortion pill reversal.
A primary focus for Rodriguez in his pro-life congressional campaign is that more education is needed about abortion and child-bearing. “We need to teach our kids about what it means to have a baby and to be more responsible.”
One perspective of how younger Latino millennials feel about abortion was contained in a recent survey of adults ages 18 to 35 by the Public Religion Research Institute, which describes itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture and public policy.
PRRI reported that 54 percent of Latino millennials said abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. However, only 27 percent thought abortion was a critical issue compared to 55 percent who said access to health care is more important.
On the morality of abortion, more than a third young Latinos told PRRI it depended on the situation, and 46 percent agreed that in some circumstances having an abortion could be the most responsible decision a woman could make.
“On the issue of abortion, we find millennials overall look very similar to their parents and grandparents on this issue. They tend not to be more liberal,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI.
Latinos make up about a fifth of the millennial population. Because Latinas are younger than whites, they are more likely to be having and raising children or dealing with reproductive health issues.
While the Alabama legislation does not fit into the prevailing political and social climate in Connecticut and many other Democrat-controlled states, it does have the potential to be a game-changer.
The Alabama law’s framers expect their law to be challenged and eventually go before the U.S. Supreme Court which President Trump has packed on the conservative side with his appointments with the possibility that landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision could be wounded or even killed.
How Latinos would react to such a change in the abortion environment is uncertain. But according to a recent poll commissioned by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, 67 percent of Latino voters do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, while 82 percent agree that women should make their own decision about abortion without government interference.