After the first legislative session, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said the abortion legislation that perished amid shouting from the Texas Senate gallery was nevertheless popular across Texas.
“Late last night, a bill supported by a majority of the Texas Legislature and a majority of Texans, was shouted down by a rude, unruly mob who decided that the legislative process is only worthwhile when it produces something they support,” Patterson said in an email sent on behalf of his 2014 campaign for lieutenant governor. Other expected candidates in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor include the incumbent, David Dewhurst, along with state Sen. Dan Patrick and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.
We focused the Truth-O-Meter on Patterson’s statement that the abortion bill had the support of a majority of Texans.
The measure would have required all abortions to take place in surgical centers, facilities designed to cope with major surgeries that could lead to life-threatening complications. It also would’ve required abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where they work. Finally, the proposal would have restricted abortions after 20 weeks, shaving four weeks off current law.
Patterson told us that a recent poll by the University of Texas/Texas Tribune showed 62 percent of Texans supporting or strongly supporting the prospect of limiting abortions that occur after the 20th week of pregnancy.
According to a June 20 Tribune news article on the poll, 62 percent said they would support “prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks.” The poll, taken from May 30 through June 13 sampled 1,200 registered voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
UT’s Jim Henson, the poll’s co-director, told us the poll did not ask respondents directly about the proposal that ultimately fell short of final approval in the Senate. Nor, Henson said, were there questions touching on the bill’s provisions for abortion clinics to meet surgical hospital standards and for each such physician to have admission privileges at a nearby hospital.
“There was a lot more in that bill than the 20-week ban,” Henson said.
We searched for other recent polls of Texans about abortion or the legislation, finding only a survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Washington-based firm whose leaders include Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg.
In that poll of 601 registered voters, 52 percent said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, the firm said in a June 20 summary, with 39 percent saying it should be illegal in most or all cases.
And the poll included a query about whether respondents would favor or oppose a proposal described as introduced by Perry and under consideration in the special session. The survey said: “This proposal would put in place new restrictions and regulations on abortion providers that would likely result in the closure of all but five abortion clinics in the state of Texas, all of which are located along the I-35 corridor, and would ban most abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy.” In response, 42 percent somewhat or strongly favored the proposal and 51 percent somewhat or strongly opposed it, the firm said, while 7 percent did not know or did not respond. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
We noticed, though, that the question was preceded by inquiries arguably intended to stir respondents’ concerns. For instance, the poll’s first opinion question spoke to whether respondents thought women’s access to health care is “being threatened in Texas.” The next query asked if the special session should focus on such issues as education, jobs and the economy “instead of bringing up social issues like abortion that were already addressed.”
Our ruling: Patterson said the majority of Texans supported the abortion measure that died. Yet he did not offer nor did we find public polls covering every element of the legislation. Patterson’s statement has an element of truth in that 62 percent of respondents in the UT/Texas Tribune poll specifically supported barring abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But the lack of other backup evidence leaves the overall claim Mostly False.
Statement: Says unsuccessful Texas abortion legislation “was supported by a majority of” Texans.