April 24, 2009

California Hispanics: Pro-Choice

By Suzanne Heibel
Hispanic Business

Contrary to social stereotypes, the majority of California Hispanics not only support a woman’s right to choose, but they also want continued government funding for birth control as well as sex education in schools, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Just over half of all California Hispanics polled believed that Roe V. Wade—the Supreme Court case in 1973 that nationally legalized abortion—should not be over turned, yet nearly the same percentage concluded that more restrictions were needed on abortions. And although Caucasians were more supportive of a woman’s right to choose than Hispanics, more than 10 percent more Hispanics wanted continued government funding for birth control and family planning than whites.

“There’s maybe a misconception when it come to birth control [Hispanics] wouldn’t be as supportive of funding as other groups. But this is the second group of Latinos that we have found supporting [the right to choose],” Sonya Petek, a survey project manager for PPIC, told HispanicBusiness.com.

Immigrant Hispanics were less supportive of population control initiatives than American-born Hispanics. While nearly 70 percent of American-born Hispanics were pro-choice, immigrants were divided almost evenly on the issue, with 45 percent wanting Roe V. Wade overturned and 48 percent polling in favor a woman’s right to choose.

“It has to do with acculturation issues,” explained Petek, but, noted that “it is important to keep in mind if you look at Latinos overall,” arguing that as a group, Hispanics are overall pro-choice and pro-birth control, despite popular belief of the opposite.

Although California is a pro-choice state, most citizens polled agreed there was a need to increase restrictions on the controversial act. Both whites (58 percent) and Latinos (81 percent) favored parental notification—a California ballot initiative that was shot-down in the 2008 election—yet 70 percent of whites believed the government should not interfere while only 45 percent of Hispanics thought so.

“Even in December 2005, sixty percent thought they should not overturn Roe versus Wade. I don’t think it’s necessarily that they want to take a right for a woman’s abortion,” said Petek. “Attitudes have shifted slightly on placing greater restrictions on abortions.”

According to statistics from Planned Parenthood, there were a reported more than 52,000 teen births in California in 2006—the numbers have risen since then—and Latinos saw teen pregnancy as a far greater issue than Caucasians, 62 percent compared to just 30 percent. A more pressing issue for population growth for Caucasians was immigration, with more than 60 percent believing that it was the number-one cause of population growth problems, not births.

“The primary population growth in CA is births, not immigration,” said Petek, setting the record straight. But then noted: “granted about half of those births are to immigrant women.”

Still, Hispanics saw large families as more ideal. More than half of the Latinos polled reported that three or more children was an ideal family size, but less than 30 percent of white respondents agreed—the majority of whites said a two-child family was optimal.

“The notion of family size is different among the different groups. There are probably cultural differences,” said Petek. “One of the things that’s important is that we did see that in the past residence were more likely to foresee rapid population growth as a problem, and that has declined today. Latinos are less likely to see growth as a problem.” Petek went on to explain that more than four out of 10 Hispanics saw the projected growth in California’s population as having zero effect on their lives or well-being.

California is expected to grow by 10 million residents over the next 20 years, increasing to a population of 49 million.

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