Are Texas Republicans wildly out of step with most of their constituents when it comes to family planning, birth control and sex ed? A poll of 604 registered voters released today by the Texas Freedom Network suggests the answer is a resounding “yes.”
When asked if access to family planning and birth control is important, 68 percent of Texans responded affirmatively, according to the poll. The partisan divide, however, was fairly stark. Ninety-five percent of Democrats said that access is “extremely/very important” while only 50 percent of Republicans agreed.
Eighty-five percent of those surveyed were in favor of “teaching about contraception, such as condoms and other birth control, along with abstinence, in high school sex education classes” and 73 percent favored “providing state-funded family planning services, including birth control, for low income women.”
“It …seems odd to be talking about many of these things in the 21st century,” said Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller at a press conference today. “But because of the way that the gender gap played out in the 2012 election, because of the numbers that we are releasing today, I hope I don’t have to say again that the pill is off limits in culture wars. I hope we’ve put that to rest.”
Women on both sides of the aisle seemed in agreement. When asked about the Legislature’s cuts to family planning clinics, 59 percent of Republican women and 84 percent of Democratic women declared that they were opposed.
Seventy-nine percent of Hispanic voters stated that they believe access to birth control is important. That should get politicians’ attention, said Bob Carpenter, a Republican pollster who conducted the survey along with Democrat Anna Greenberg. (The left-leaning Texas Freedom Network supports restoration of family planning cuts the Legislature enacted in 2011.)
“That’s an extremely high number that I don’t think anyone, any party, any candidate, any legislator, any statewide elected official can ignore,” said Carpenter.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of support for family planning services, some legislators have filed bills that go after contraception. Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), for example, is pushing “Hobby Lobby” legislation, which would give tax breaks to companies, like Hobby Lobby, that face federal fines over their refusal to provide emergency contraception coverage to their employees through insurance.
Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) filed HB 1057 last week, which would prevent abortion providers or their affiliates (like Planned Parenthood) from providing sex education materials for public schools.
But, according to Miller, this study only illustrates that lawmakers have lost sight of what Texans actually want. “Last legislative session, we saw some legislators openly declare war on contraception. Texans clearly want that war to stop,” Miller said.