Abortion Rights Isn’t a Top Issue for Likely Democratic Voters in Texas: Campaign Week in Review

Health care was by far the most important issue for likely Democratic primary voters in Texas, according to a new survey.

[Photo: An older woman holds a strip of stickers that read 'I Voted' and have images of the US and Texas flags.]
In a recent Public Policy Polling and Texas Progress survey of over 1,000 likely Democratic primary voters, only 3 percent said abortion rights is their most important issue heading into Super Tuesday, when Democratic voters in 14 states, including Texas, American Samoa, and abroad will cast their votes in the party’s nominating contest. Loren Elliott / Getty Images

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Abortion rights not a high priority for Texas Democratic primary voters

Though Republicans in the Texas legislature have been at the forefront of eroding access to abortion, likely voters in Tuesday’s Texas Democratic primary don’t view abortion rights as their most important issue.

In a recent Public Policy Polling and Progress Texas survey of over 1,000 likely Democratic primary voters in the state, only 3 percent said abortion rights is their most important issue heading into Super Tuesday, when Democratic voters in 14 states, including Texas, American Samoa, and abroad will cast their votes in the party’s nominating contest.

Forty-one percent of survey respondents said health care is their top issue. Climate change was a distant second with 16 percent, followed by voting rights at 11 percent.

“Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation, and we know that Texans’ inability to access affordable health care also impacts their abortion care,” Tara Pohlmeyer, communications manager for Progress Texas, told Rewire.News. “Abortion is health care. This poll only asked what voters’ top issue was, and we know that a majority of Texans support legal abortion access for all.”

A 2013 anti-choice law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature closed nearly half the clinics in Texas, despite part of that law being struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Texas survey also showed that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s presence in the Democratic presidential race is hurting former Vice President Joe Biden in the upcoming Texas primary. Biden, tied with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for likely voters’ top choice at 24 percent, would have received 31 percent support if Bloomberg were not in the race, according to the survey. Bloomberg drew 17 percent support as the top choice, ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) 14 percent.

Warren, meanwhile, has the highest approval/disapproval rating in the survey; Bloomberg has the lowest.

Progress Texas wrote in a summary of the survey results that the results are “remarkable numbers considering Democratic candidates have not aired a single attack ad” against Bloomberg.

Biden has backing of Texas Democrat who supports anti-choice program 

When former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro dropped out of the 2020 Democratic presidential race in January, he threw his support to Warren. That didn’t stop Texas Democrats who once backed Castro’s bid for the White House from backing Biden.

One of those Democratic lawmakers, Texas Rep. Ryan Guillen (Rio Grande), has a spotty record on abortion, including support for the anti-choice program Alternatives to Abortion. The program, created by the Republican-controlled state legislature in 2005, has little government oversight. Since 2014, it has poured millions of taxpayer money into crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), or anti-choice clinics. These facilities are often staffed by anti-choice activists who try to dissuade patients from seeking abortion care. 

For the state’s fiscal year 2018-2019 budget, Guillen voted in favor of an amendment that increased funding for Alternatives to Abortion by $20 million. In 2017, Guillen voted for a measure that would force abortion providers to secure written consent from a parent or guardian of a patient younger than 18.

Texas Right to Life has given Guillen, one of several members of the state legislature’s Mexican American Legislative Caucus to endorse Biden, a 48 percent rating.

A Democratic state senator in Louisiana who voted for the state’s 2019 near-total abortion ban also endorsed Biden this month. 

Reproductive health care “shamefully excluded” from South Carolina debate 

Officials from Planned Parenthood Votes criticized moderators of Tuesday night’s Democratic debate in South Carolina, where abortion rights and reproductive health care were “shamefully excluded,” the organization said in an email.

Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, said presidential candidates should have been asked about their reproductive rights platforms as the U.S. Supreme Court is set to take on a major abortion rights case with President Donald Trump’s justices—Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch—on the Court.

“We are days away from the Supreme Court hearing arguments in a case that could threaten abortion access for 25 million people in this country,” Lawson said in a statement. “If there were any moment to hear from the presidential candidates about how they will protect the reproductive health care and rights that are in such dire jeopardy, it is now. The real losers of tonight’s debate are the voters who were denied the chance to hear how their candidates will fight for their right to make their own health care decisions.”