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TO: Interested Parties

FROM: Planned Parenthood Action Fund

DATE: February 2, 2011

RE: 2012 Elections and the Women’s Vote

As campaigns and reporters start looking forward to the 2012 election, how to win the women’s vote — especially the independent women’s vote — is likely to be front and center.

It’s clear that independent women voters play a key role in deciding close elections, especially in swing states.  And we know that women’s health issues have particular influence on independent women voters.  They use support for women’s health issues to help them understand which candidates are on their side.

For example, in close statewide races in 2010, such as those in Colorado, Washington, Nevada, and California, Democratic candidates were able to win the women’s vote by double digit margins, and thus win the election, by highlighting their pro-women’s health credentials, as well as their opponent’s extreme anti-choice positions.  Those winning candidates were able to buck the Republican tide by communicating to women voters on an issue that matters to them, and signal they were pro-women’s health. 

However, as the 112th Congress kicks off, it appears that the House leadership is already risking a political backlash among in the 2012 elections on two levels:

One, they have introduced a number of anti-women’s health bills that will alienate a  key voting demographic, independent women voters.
Two, they risk being out of step with the American public by pushing an extreme  ideological agenda that takes away women’s health benefits and rights, instead of  focusing on jobs and the economy.

The three anti-women’s health bills they have already introduced, before any jobs bill, are:  

Rep. Chris Smith’s (R-NJ) misleadingly titled “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” bill (H.R. 3), which would take comprehensive private health insurance coverage away from millions of American women, even those who face serious health problems from a pregnancy; would impose new tax penalties on individuals and small businesses that purchase comprehensive private health insurance coverage; and would prohibit existing abortion coverage to many women who are raped and become pregnant.

Rep. Mike Pence’s (R-IN) bill, which would deny access to preventive care for millions of women by prohibiting hundreds of community-based health centers, including Planned Parenthood health centers, from receiving federal funding for preventive care, including annual exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, contraceptive services, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. This funding, called Title X, has been available since 1970 and provides this basic, preventive health care to five million women a year. 

Rep. Joe Pitts’ (R-PA) bill, which revives the failed Stupak abortion ban from two years ago – cutting off millions of American women from the private health insurance coverage they have today by effectively banning abortion coverage in state-based health insurance exchanges established under the health care law.  Representative Pitts’ bill could also prohibit states from ensuring women have access to information about how to get access to abortion services. 

A recent Hart Research poll showed that voters are already strongly opposed to these measures.

• 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; and 78 percent of independent women voters).
• 74 percent of voters disagree with a key tenet of the Smith bill, making women who choose to purchase private health insurance with their own money pay higher taxes if that insurance includes abortion coverage (including 71 percent of voters who voted for the Republican candidate for Congress in 2010; and 79 percent of independent women voters).

Clearly, by pursuing these anti-women’s health policies, Republicans risk a political backlash in 2012 among a key voting bloc, independent women voters.

Instead of focusing on improving the economy and creating jobs, the House leadership is focusing on taking away health care from millions of women across the country.  Whether it’s the Smith bill, the Pence bill, the Pitts bill, or any other bill, Americans — Democrats and Republicans — clearly don’t want their elected officials imposing new, dangerous, ideological restrictions that strip away women’s health and rights.  Undeniably, these bills will have electoral consequences in 2012. 


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