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Elections & Politics

New Poll Shows Americans Strongly Oppose Republican Leadership Agenda on Women’s Health

Contact: Planned Parenthood Action Fund Media Office, 212-261-4433

For Immediate Release: 12.06.10

Voters Trust Planned Parenthood When It Comes to Women’s Health Issues

Voters overwhelmingly oppose the restrictive women’s health policies that the new Republican leadership in Congress has proposed introducing next year, according to new data released today.

The survey, conducted by Hart Research Associates and commissioned by Planned Parenthood Action Fund, found that even a strong majority of voters who voted for Republican Congressional candidates in this past election oppose the GOP leadership’s agenda on women’s health. In contrast, the poll found strong majority support for Planned Parenthood’s agenda for proactive family planning policies. 

The survey released today shows that:

  • 71 percent of voters disagree with cutting federal funding for preventive health services at Planned Parenthood health centers around the country (including 60 percent of voters who voted for the Republican candidate for Congress in 2010).
  • 88 percent of voters support education for teens that includes information about abstinence as well as birth control and preventing sexually transmitted diseases.
  • 75 percent of voters support policies to reduce unintended pregnancies through greater access to birth control.
  • 77 percent of voters disagree with making abortion illegal, even in cases of rape or incest (including 68 percent of voters who voted for the Republican candidate for Congress in 2010).
  • 74 percent of voters disagree with making women who choose to purchase private health insurance with their own money pay higher taxes if that includes abortion coverage (including 71 percent of voters who voted for the Republican candidate for Congress in 2010).

“Unlike the new leadership in the House, the vast majority of American voters clearly support taking proactive steps to prevent unintended and teen pregnancy, such as providing real sex education to young people and making birth control affordable and available,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “The incoming leadership of the House should take heed that Americans clearly don’t want their elected officials imposing new ideological restrictions on women’s health and rights.”

Even Republican voters in the midterm election overwhelmingly oppose the GOP leadership’s restrictive agenda on women’s health, making it very clear that the results of the election were in no way a mandate to roll back the clock on providing comprehensive sex education, making birth control affordable and available, and maintaining a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy through abortion.  This polling follows recent media reports indicating that some “small government” conservative and Tea Party activists are urging GOP leaders not to pursue social issues as part of their legislative agenda. 

In a similar vein, the Hart Research poll also shows that voters overwhelmingly trust Planned Parenthood over Sarah Palin when it comes to women’s health issues; and that a strong majority of voters view Planned Parenthood as being “in step” with them on sexual and reproductive health issues.

When asked, "When it comes to women's health issues, who do you trust more to represent your own views on these issues--Planned Parenthood or Sarah Palin?” voters selected Planned Parenthood by a 30 point margin over Sarah Palin (54–24). That number rises to a 36 point margin among women voters (58–22); and a 46 point margin among independent women (58–12).

“Americans trust Planned Parenthood because they know Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses across the country provide preventive health care to three million Americans a year, including annual exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, and contraception, and one in five American women has been cared for at a Planned Parenthood health center at some point in her life,” said Richards. “Americans know that Planned Parenthood stands up for their health care needs and their families every day in communities throughout the country.”

The poll also found that Planned Parenthood stands with a strong majority (59 percent) of voters as being “in step” with their views on reproductive health issues such as sex education, birth control, and abortion. With only 26 percent of voters describing Planned Parenthood as being “out of step,” Planned Parenthood enjoys a 33 point net positive rating on these issues.

In contrast, voters have much less trust in Sarah Palin on reproductive health issues. Forty-three percent of voters say Sarah Palin is “out of step” with their views, while 31 percent say she is “in step,” for a 12 point net negative rating.

“Simply put, Sarah Palin is out of step with the vast majority of Americans when it comes to sexual and reproductive health issues,” said Richards. “Planned Parenthood is by far a more trusted leader.”

The poll measured support for and opposition to the GOP leadership’s policy proposals on women’s health, which come in part from the GOP’s “Pledge to America.” Specifically, the GOP “Pledge to America” calls for “a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion.”

Current federal policy already bans federal funds for abortion, but individuals can use their own money to purchase the health coverage they want, including abortion coverage. To implement the GOP pledge on abortion, Congress would have to drastically rewrite federal tax code and restrict a series of popular tax benefits for purchasing private health insurance coverage. This would result in higher taxes for Americans who choose to purchase private health insurance with their own money if their plans include abortion coverage. 

For instance, if the GOP pledge were implemented, individuals and small businesses would be prohibited from receiving tax benefits simply because their health insurance includes abortion coverage, a common benefit in a majority of private health plans. Small businesses may be prohibited from claiming a tax deduction on providing health insurance to their employees that includes abortion coverage.  Moreover, individuals could not use their own money set aside in a health savings account to pay for an abortion.

This proposal is so out of the mainstream, nearly three-quarters of voters (74 percent) disagree with making anyone who chooses to purchase private health insurance with their own money to pay higher taxes if that policy includes abortion coverage.

The second GOP leadership policy proposal to defund Planned Parenthood comes from Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), who has repeatedly called for this defunding, despite the fact that millions of women across the United States rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for their primary and preventive health care, including annual exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, contraception visits, and testing and treatments for sexually transmitted infections. More than ninety percent of the care Planned Parenthood health centers offer is preventive, and every year Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses carry out nearly one million screenings for cervical cancer and more than 825,000 breast exams, and provide contraception to nearly 2.5 million patients and more than 3.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

As the Huffington Post reported, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) is not only targeting Planned Parenthood for defunding, he is fundraising off this political attack. 

“One in five American women has received care from a Planned Parenthood health center at some point in her life, underscoring the fact that Planned Parenthood is an essential community health provider in America,” said Richards. “If Representative Pence is successful in his effort to defund Planned Parenthood, millions of women will lose access to their main source of basic preventive health care.”

Again, the Pence proposal to defund the preventive care provided by Planned Parenthood is met with strong opposition, even from Republican voters. According to the Hart Research poll, 71 percent of voters disagree with cutting federal funding for preventive health services at Planned Parenthood health centers around the country, including 60 percent of voters who voted for the Republican candidate for Congress in 2010.

The poll was conducted by Hart Research Associates and commissioned by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. It was based on a survey of 802 registered voters from November 5 to 8, 2010.

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Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy.