On the day after the Texas Senate passed a bill requiring women to undergo mandatory transvaginal sonograms before getting an abortion, and on the same day the Lege passed a resolution celebrating Chicken Fried Steak Day (not kidding), the resounding call from voters all across the political spectrum has become "This is not what I sent you to do. I sent you to set priorities."
That quote is a result of the research pollster Celinda Lake presented yesterday at the Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas Action Fund's annual meeting at Hotel Zaza. Lake is a leading strategist for the national Democratic Party. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is a nonprofit lobbying and fundraising organization dedicated to electing leaders who will preserve women's, health and reproductive rights. Yesterday's luncheon helped raise a record-breaking $87,000 for the fund, according to Wanna Hadnott, Action Fund board chair.
Lake's appearance came at a crucial time, said Mini Timmaraju, Action Fund political director. "We are in the middle of a war on women and reproductive rights, starting in Austin and moving all the way to Washington, DC," she said. "We have the highest rate of uninsured women and children in the country."
Timmaraju then read a status report featuring a litany of legislative changes against women, personal freedoms and reproductive rights, including the passage of the sonogram bill and the Choose Life license plate bill, the proceeds of which fund Pregnancy Crisis Centers, religiously backed organizations that allegedly withhold or misrepresent medical information from women in order to convince them not to have abortions.
Public fatigue for these changes has helped grow the Action Find's supporter database to 100,000 people. And it was that sense of constituent fatigue that Lake repeatedly encountered during her research.
"You don't expect pollsters to give the uplifting part of the presentation," she joked as she hobbled to the mike after Timmaraju's status report. "I'm limping because I've been running around Washington trying to kick the Tea Party out."
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Lake said voters are becoming increasingly disillusioned with Washington's focus on flash-bang issues instead of bigger-picture problems like job growth and the economy.
"People are sick of the abortion debate. They voted for change and out of a sense of frustration with the economy, they didn't vote for these reproductive attacks. The people who are single-issue voters, the people who are fired up are anti-choice, but that's changing. Sixty-five percent of voters did not want Planned Parenthood defunded," she said of her research.
"A record number of people are losing their jobs and going to Planned Parenthood for medical care. They're saying, 'Now we have medical protocol being determined by my government and not my doctor, and you're not even paying for it?' People really feel that their economic situation is not understood by Washington," Lake said.
The public's biggest critique for their elected officials, according to Lake? "'They're making my life harder, not easier. They are going too far.' The public is stunned that this is what they're working on," she said.