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Southwest Research Project (2009)

Despite somewhat persistent myths that Hispanics, are, as a whole more socially conservative than the rest of the U.S. population on the issue of abortion, the findings of a new study conducted by Bendixen & Associates (B&A), a public research firm in Miami, FL, shows that while Latinas have mixed feelings on this topic, they overwhelmingly oppose government intervention in reproductive decisions.

The research, commissioned by NARAL Pro-Choice America, was conducted to gather information regarding the views of the Latina populations of Arizona and New Mexico on the issues of reproductive rights and family planning. The first stage of the research was to conduct qualitative focus group research with registered Latina voters in each state. From April 16th-17th, 2009, B&A conducted two focus groups in Phoenix, Arizona, and two in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In each state, B&A conducted one English-language focus group with English-dominant Latinas, and one Spanish-language focus group with Spanish-dominant Latinas. The purpose of these focus groups was to ascertain a potential message and communications strategy on reproductive health and justice policies that will enable NARAL Pro-Choice America to effectively reach and engage the Latino community.

The findings of this qualitative research focused on the direction of the second and final state of this research: statewide polls of registered Latinas in both states. The quantitative data obtained through the statewide poll provides concrete data from a representative sample of the Latina population of Arizona and New Mexico and it is not unreasonable to assume that some of the conclusions from this study may be applicable to the Hispanic population in the United States.

Overall, the findings revealed great potential for outreach and messaging to these communities. One of the most promising findings of the research is this group’s rejection of government intervention in private matters. While a majority of respondents believe abortions should be illegal (53%), most respondents (75%) adamantly reject government intervention in reproductive choices. This rejection of government control offers a unique opportunity for messaging around reproductive health and justice policies.

In addition, the research found that personal experience does not prove to be a major barrier to advancing a pro-choice position. For example, the differential in support of legal abortion amongst respondents who have had unplanned pregnancies and those who have not was a mere 4 percentage points. Moreover, although 92% of respondents have never had an abortion themselves, and 56% have never known anyone who has chosen to have an abortion, a whopping 75% still reject government control over abortion.

In response to questions about family planning and contraception, participants demonstrated openness to the concept of family planning and to the use and distribution of contraception. The majority of Latinas in Arizona and New Mexico have discussed family planning with their friends and others. Ninety-six percent of respondents say they believe family planning is a good thing and 76% have discussed how to avoid becoming pregnant with family or friends, 53% have discussed when to have children, and 51% have discussed how many children to have. Ninety-three percent of respondents believe contraception is a "good thing” – with the overwhelming majority (65%) stating that they have taken prescription contraception, and 85% approving of women’s use of daily oral contraceptives. Moreover, the majority of Latinas in these two states has received education on sex, contraception, and reproductive health in high school or college.

With regard to specific messages, two major findings emerged. Shifting the focus from abortion to prevention and planning with language such as "We should focus on educating people on better way to prevent unplanned pregnancies instead of concentrating on making abortion more difficult and dangerous to have” proved very effective. In addition, answers that supported legal abortion but included a personal disclaimer such as "While I am personally against abortion” were more convincing to those respondents who think abortion should be illegal.

The research also reveals a clear generational and cultural shift. Younger and more acculturated respondents were more likely to approve of legal abortion, pre-marital co-habitation, and sex. In the focus groups, participants used the concept of a "new time” to differentiate between this and older generations’ sexual attitudes. Overall, one can being to see a trending away from strict social construction, and consequently, increased prospects for communication with this changing community.

The need for culturally competent messaging around reproductive health and justice policies is apparent, and NARAL is uniquely situated to meet this opportunity. Although many respondents had never heard of NARAL, when read NARAL’s mission, a majority of respondents had a positive reaction.

Read the complete report here.
 
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