Roe v. Wade decision weighs on Hispanic voters before midterms
Hispanic voters’ views on abortion are set to play a key role in a number of contested House and Senate races across the country with analysis by both parties showing polar opposite attitudes.
For the predominantly Catholic U.S. Hispanic community, abortion has historically played a smaller political role than that of other U.S. Catholics. But certain denominations of Protestantism with stricter political views on abortion are growing quickly among Latinos.
And having a Catholic serving as president doesn’t necessarily make a difference on those viewpoints.
Broken down by state as well as demographics, findings suggest that among Hispanics, the issue could tip the scale between Democrats and Republicans in key races that will determine which party controls Congress for the last two years of President Biden’s first term.
A poll by Future Majority, a Democratic political group, released last week before the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling showed Hispanics in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada overwhelmingly support the right to choose.
In all three battleground states, more than 60 percent of Hispanics support abortion rights, with even higher support among women and younger voters.
But older, Spanish-speaking and foreign-born Hispanic Americans are less likely to support abortion rights, according to the poll.
“Latinos in those states overwhelmingly vote for a Democrat over a Republican on this issue. And that’s true by language, by status, by age, any way you slice it. This is a net positive for Democrats and Latinos in Arizona and Nevada,” said Kristian Ramos, a Democratic political consultant.
“In Pennsylvania those numbers are even higher, and the reason is, the Latinos in that state are Puerto Rican. So they’ve been here in the country longer,” added Ramos.
Hispanics will also play a key role in House races in progressive states like California, and conservative states like Texas.
California’s 15 million Hispanics are likely to be more progressive, less religious and more accustomed to having easy access to abortion.
In contrast, the more than 11 million Hispanics in Texas are more likely to be Evangelical or conservative Catholic and opposed to abortion.
Still, Latinas in Texas accounted for 38.8 percent of all the state’s abortions in 2019, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
That’s higher than the 26.3 percent of abortions performed that year on non-Hispanic white women, and the 27.8 percent performed on non-Hispanic Black women in Texas.
Nationwide, racial and ethnic data on abortions is skewed because only 29 states and the District of Columbia report that data to the CDC.
California is among the states that does not report that data, further skewing national numbers for how many Latinas seek out abortion care.
While there are regional differences in how Hispanic voters view abortion, gender and age also play large roles in decisionmaking.
“Women in general tend to be more progressive in their voting. I would expect if anyone is moved by this recent decision, it will be Latina women who may be more moved to support the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party,” said Luis Ricardo Fraga, director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. “Issues of age, issues of generation come into play as well.”
Peter Casarella, professor at the Duke Divinity School, said his analysis showed the issue being problematic for Democrats.
“The support for banning most or all forms of abortion among Hispanics is higher than among almost any other ethnic group,” Casarella said. “It’s going to be a problem for Democrats, clearly, in that sense.”
Latinos, also, on the whole are becoming less socially conservative.
Casarella pointed out that Latino Catholics tend to be less strict on abortion access issues than Latino Evangelicals in the U.S., pointing to immigration and gun safety issues as the total pro-life picture Catholics look at.
“The Latino Catholic population is slightly more flexible in his opposition to abortion than the Latino evangelical population,” said Casarella. “And I think it’s partly because of that distinction that Latino Catholics look at the total meaning of giving life to the next generation, and that’s where gun safety in particular is such a critical issue.”
On the campaign trail, abortion may remain a fringe issue, especially for Republicans who will likely continue to hammer home an economic message.
“Hispanics are proudly pro-life. As a community, we value faith, family and freedom which all align with Republican ideals and values,” said Republican National Committee spokesperson Nicole Morales.
“Democrats are out of touch and losing the support of the Hispanic community because of rising costs for gas and groceries and soft on crime policies. The midterms will show how Hispanics reject the disastrous agenda of Joe Biden and the Democrats,” said Morales.
But Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Nora Keefe predicted that the impact of Roe v. Wade being overturned on Latinas could sway people to vote for Democrats in November.
“Stripping away a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions will have especially dire consequences for Latina women and their families,” she said. “In Senate battlegrounds, the GOP’s agenda to make abortion illegal and impose new, cruel punishments on women is deeply unpopular with the broad coalition of voters that decide the general election, and it will lead Republican Senate candidates to defeat in 2022.”
Biden’s own Catholicism has also been under intense scrutiny over how he balances his stance on abortion access with his faith. Biden, who is only the second Catholic president in U.S. history, has a longtime discomfort with the issue of abortion and very rarely uses the word abortion out loud.
His support for abortion access has been attacked by conservative Catholic bishops since he first entered the White House, which has led to calls for the church to not offer him communion.
Biden has received support from Pope Francis to keep receiving communion and the president often attends Catholic Mass either in Wilmington, Del., or in Washington, D.C., on Saturday evenings.
Still, having a Catholic in the White House doesn’t necessarily yield support from Hispanic Catholics on the matter of abortion.
“It’s definitely recognizable that President Biden goes to church and is very open about the fact that he’s a Catholic and there’s a sense of commonality there. But abortion politics in the Latino community, even when in the rare instances … really goes beyond whether you’re going to church or not,” Casarella.
With the two parties’ analysis of Hispanic voter attitudes on abortion being polar opposite, it’s likely voters are all but certain to receive wildly contradictory message from Democrats and Republicans on the matter.
“Republicans are trying to take America back to the 1950s and their view of Latinos is also from the 1950s. I think any poll from the last 10 years will show a marked shift in Latino views on abortion, to being pro-choice,” said Ramos.