With Houston Indictments, Will Planned Parenthood be the New Voter ID?

by Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

Monday found a Harris County grand jury handing up indictments over the videos of Planned Parenthood employees surreptitiously obtained by an anti-abortion group, but not to Planned Parenthood or its officials. Instead, the activists, or, as they are now quick to point out, “journalists,” were indicted for tampering with a government record along with another charge. Despite the failure to uncover illegal activity by Planned Parenthood in the face of a number of state and federal hearings in the wake of the video release, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor appear to be doubling down on the state’s war with the healthcare provider, which includes a curious ongoing investigation by state investigators, and the removal of Planned Parenthood from the state’s Medicaid Program. Gov. Abbott released a statement, saying in part, “Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation.” Adding, “The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”

categoryLiberalsModeratesConservatives By law, abortion should never be permitted.4%11%19% The law should permit abortion only in case of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is in danger.10%23%41% The law should permit abortion for reasons other than rape, incest, or danger to the woman’s life, but only after the ne10%16%20% By law, a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice.74%43%16% Don’t know3%7%4%

Given the partisan and ideological distribution of abortion attitudes, and in particular, Planned Parenthood’s status as a campaign force for Democrats, it’s hard to imagine Texas Republicans scaling back their onslaught on the healthcare provider, even in the face of notable public set-backs and the potential loss of federal dollars. This is especially true given the abundance of negative press that Planned Parenthood has received since the summer based on what appeared to be rather shaky claims at the outset, and now appear even shakier. While this coverage was sure to throw kindling on the conservative fire raging against the organization, it is also the case that all this negative coverage has led Democrats to view the organization more negatively. In May of 2012, Planned Parenthood was viewed favorably by 77 percent of Texas Democrats in the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. But by November of last year, that number had dropped to 62 percent.

It’s not as though Texas’ Republican elected officials are concerned about the views of Democrats when strategizing on this issue. But as this particular case unfolds, one has to wonder: In a nationalized election year in which the Democratic nominee is (still) likely to be a woman, and in which the Republican nominee (whomever he may be) will likely have to at least attempt to deflect if not overcome the “war on women” charge, could the war on Planned Parenthood become the lightning rod that voter identification laws became between 2010 and 2012 for Democrats? We’ve written previously about how attitudes toward those laws changed from a broad consensus that presenting identification at the polls was a good (or at least expected) thing, even among Democrats, to a partisan issue that galvanized many Democratic constituencies. Texas GOP leaders are already doubling down on fighting Planned Parenthood, but the marginal short-term gains they have already realized are likely to dissipate if recent history provides any guidance.

Question wording: “Some people argue that requiring registered voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls reduces voter fraud and does not place major obstacles on anyone who is legally entitled to vote. Other people argue that such a requirement has a negligible effect on voter fraud but places significant obstacles on elderly, low-income, disabled, and minority voters. Do you agree or disagree with the idea that registered voters should be required to present a government issued photo ID at the polls before they can be allowed to vote?”
Question wording: “Some people argue that requiring registered voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls reduces voter fraud and does not place major obstacles on anyone who is legally entitled to vote. Other people argue that such a requirement has a negligible effect on voter fraud but places significant obstacles on elderly, low-income, disabled, and minority voters. Do you agree or disagree with the idea that registered voters should be required to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls before they can be allowed to vote?”

Originally published at texaspolitics.utexas.edu on January 26, 2016.