If Texas or Arkansas were to have its way, there would be fewer and fewer abortions each year. A federal judge ruled last week Arkansas could block Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, one of only a handful of states to do this. A new Texas law restricts insurance coverage of abortion.
On the other hand, Gov. Kate Brown, D-Ore., just signed a bill that requires all insurance companies to cover abortions, regardless of circumstances, a radical piece of abortion legislation. Pew Research says public support of abortion is as high as it's been in the last 20 years of polling, yet states such as Arkansas and Texas couldn't be more different than Oregon.
The obvious answer is that the states differ when it comes to political demographics. Texas and Arkansas are politically more conservative, having elected mostly Republican politicians at all levels, from governor down to the state House. Approximately 52 percent of Texans who voted cast their ballot for Trump last year. Elected Republicans outnumber Democrats everywhere 2-1, except in the state Senate, where they are tied. Essentially, Texas is a sea of red.
Oregon on the other hand, is much more liberal. Clinton won the state with 52 percent of the votes and although a cursory glance at an electoral graphic might look red, cities with more dense population all voted Democrat. Of Oregon's seven members of Congress, only one is a Republican.
Support for abortion does tend to fall among party lines, again, per Pew Research. So it makes sense there would be support or opposition for abortion if these same voters purposely elect a politician who is either for or against it, as the case may be. Furthermore, politicians then are supposed to represent the people who elected them and do what is best. It follows that politicians with deep religious or political philosophies would offer support or opposition of abortion representative of their districts, yet one wonders if there is more driving such radically different legislation from states within the same country.
Is there more that explains why Texas has all but banned abortion and Oregon is demanding insurance companies cover abortions than just the old adage that all politics is local?
There might be one more explanation, tucked underneath the rhetoric from both sides on why abortion funding via Medicaid should be halted or insurance companies should subsidize it, and that is education. Think about it: What influences an adult as much, if not more than, what kind of politician he votes for, or in the politician's case, how they vote on legislation, more than what they learned in school?
Everyone knows the 13-17 years people spend becoming educated are important. That system has greatly influenced our country's ongoing abortion debate and reflects the polarizing legislation we're now seeing enacted at the state level.
For example, the state of Oregon got an "A+" grade on sex education, birth control, and reproductive rights from the Population Institute. The state mandated "comprehensive and medically accurate sex education in public schools that discusses HIV prevention, contraceptive methods and abstinence." They also have had an "unintended pregnancy rate" of 46 percent.
So it makes sense in a state where people have been educated to embrace sex education (aka "have sex!"), birth control (which often fails), and reproductive rights (abortion, everyone!), these kids would later turn into adults who vote for politicians who pass legislation that represents some of the most radically pro-choice bills in the country. Oregon feels like they need abortions because the teenagers, and grown ups, keep getting pregnant "unintentionally." It's not a reactionary phase or even a political move: It's been ingrained since childhood via education.
Research varies about unintended pregnancies. While Guttmacher claims Texas has a higher rate of unintended pregnancies than Oregon, a piece in the Texas Tribune posits that since the number of abortions has been steadily falling while the birthrate has remained nearly the same "it seems reasonable to say that the unintended pregnancy rate in Texas fell after Planned Parenthood was defunded."
Either way, pro-life politicians keep winning in Texas. The sex education in Texas still seems to give Texans a different attitude toward what to do about unwanted pregnancies, if or when they do occur.
Abortion may remain one of the most polarizing topics in America, but a politics-only approach doesn't necessarily explain why. Education influences political ideology which in turn effects legislation, in favor of or against abortion. If conservatives want more more pro-life legislation a la Texas, they will want to continue to influence sex education in school.
Nicole Russell is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist in Washington, D.C., who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota. She was the 2010 recipient of the American Spectator's Young Journalist Award.
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