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"Public opinion on abortion is split."
"The public is divided on abortion."

These statements are just not accurate. In fact, the public overwhelmingly supports abortion rights and has for decades. However, a small minority on the far right is deeply opposed to abortion, and they exercise outsized influence in conservative politics. That's very different than the public being split or divided on the issue.

Check out this smart analysis in “Polls Have Been Misleading You About What Americans Actually Believe About Abortion” from Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress highlighting the ways that traditional polling has underestimated public support for abortion. Culp-Ressler writes: “The problem stems from the way that we’ve been writing polls about abortion. For years, researchers have been asking Americans the wrong questions.”

You can read the full piece here: http://thinkprogress.org/HEALTH/2015/04/20/3648051/ABORTION-POLLING-ISSUES/

What we know from polling, including the recent survey from VOX/PerryUndem highlighted in the ThinkProgress piece above, is that a majority of Americans support a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her pregnancy, and that includes decisions about abortion. For young women in America, the idea that pregnancy alone will determine their destiny is unthinkable today. They fully expect that birth control, and yes, safe and legal abortion, will be available to them — and they should.

  • The VOX/PerryUndem survey, conducted in March 2015, found that only 26 percent of respondents identified as strictly “pro-life,” while a sizable 71 percent of respondents identified as fully or partially “pro-choice” or didn’t identify with one of those labels at all. That’s because the typical labels are not reflective of how Americans think or talk about abortion in America today.
  • 87 percent of poll respondents said that a woman seeking an abortion should receive medically accurate information.
  • 70 percent of respondents said women shouldn't have to drive more than 60 miles to get an abortion.
  • 70 percent also said a woman should be able to access abortion without added burdens.

And yet, we continue to see politicians, including the leading GOP presidential candidates, double down on their record and agenda to restrict access to safe and legal abortion. This is part of a dangerous and out-of-touch trend that we’re seeing in Congress and in state legislatures across the country, where politicians are legislating based on bad medicine that prevents doctors from providing medical care based on their judgment of what’s best for each patient.

As Vanessa Cullins, vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America wrote in a recent op-ed: “The politicians who are pushing bad medicine in the halls of Congress and state legislatures are on the wrong side of the medical community, of the American people — and on the wrong side of history.  While they continue to try to force their political beliefs in our exam rooms, it’s my very real fear that the health of women across America — our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters — will suffer again as it did many years ago.  We cannot go backward. Our leaders must be willing to put differences aside and keep the health and well-being of American women moving forward.”

What’s clear is the vast majority of the American public wants to ensure that abortion remains safe and legal — and they have for 40 years. When this issue is put before voters, time and time again they vote to reject intrusive restrictions on abortion. By double digits, voters in South Dakota have twice rejected ballot initiatives that would have banned abortion. So-called personhood ballot initiatives were rejected in November by large majorities in both Colorado and in North Dakota, where voters also defeated one of the bills’ key sponsors.

While women should not have to justify their personal medical decisions, the reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens under complex circumstances — the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.

  • Data, including from the CDC, shows that abortion has over a 99 percent safety record. And studies show women experience complications less than one percent of the time.
  • Nearly 99 percent of abortions in the U.S. occur before 21 weeks. Often, abortions later in pregnancy involve rare, severe fetal abnormalities and serious risks to the women's health.
  • When Americans understand the real-world impact of 20-week bans, a solid 60 percent of voters oppose them. A strong majority of voters — Republicans (62 percent), Democrats (78 percent), and Independents (71 percent) — say this is the wrong issue for Congress and their state legislators to be spending time on.

Statement from Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

“If the GOP presidential hopefuls are truly committed to reducing the rates of abortion in America, they’d invest in programs that are proven to work — including sex education and affordable birth control. Instead, they’re waging an attack on safe, legal abortion. These views aren’t reflective of the American public — or most Republican voters — who see that allowing women to make their own personal health care decisions is at the heart of independence and freedom.

“We know that many Republicans stand with Planned Parenthood, and they should encourage Republican candidates for president to support women’s health.”

If you have any questions, please contact the Planned Parenthood Action Fund media line at [email protected].

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