Nancy Keenan is the President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Editor's Note: Our coverage this week has been dedicated to the Tornto AIDS Conference, but this poll, released this morning from NARAL Pro-Choice America, is important news we want to bring to our readers. In doing so we also note the increasing importance and interconnectedness of reproductive health, choice, contracpetion and disease prevention efforts in the public dialogue in America today.
On the reproductive rights front, the message is clear: Americans are tired of divisive attacks on a woman's right to choose and in November's election, they are ready to vote for a positive change.
NARAL Pro-Choice America just released a poll that shows pro-choice candidates have an opportunity to capitalize on the public's support for commonsense solutions to prevent unintended pregnancy and reduce the need for abortion. Nearly 77 percent of voters polled agree that the government and politicians should stay out of a woman's personal and private decision about whether or not to have an abortion.
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The poll, conducted by Celinda Lake, Lake Research Partners, surveyed 1,000 registered likely voters ages 18 or older nationwide, as well as a national sample of 100 drop-off unmarried women who voted in 2004 but not in 2002, and found that voters feel most favorable toward practical prevention measures, such as access to birth control and honest, realistic sex education. Other significant findings include:
- 61 percent of voters disapprove when they hear Congress has voted 145 times in the last 10 years to restrict reproductive-health services, including abortion and birth control.
- Eight out of 10 voters agree that Americans are tired of divisive attacks over the issue of abortion and want their leaders to support real solutions to prevent unintended pregnancies.
- Two-thirds of voters disapprove of the laws, such as the ones passed in South Dakota and Louisiana that would ban abortion in nearly all circumstances, even for victims of rape and incest or women whose health is at risk.
- 65 percent of voters feel less favorable toward candidates who support allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions.
- 61 percent of voters feel more negative toward a candidate who opposes making emergency contraception available in emergency rooms for rape and incest victims.
Energized pro-choice candidates are running powerful campaigns in key states from coast to coast, and represent the promise of electing a pro-choice Congress.
Ending the reign of anti-choice dominance in Congress and electing a pro-choice majority would bring advancements in legislation to require insurance companies to cover birth control in the same way they pay for Viagra. We could pass laws requiring hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape and incest victims in the emergency room. It means we could stop anti-choice pharmacists from refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control.
We have an outstanding slate of pro-choice candidates who can help change the direction in Congress, and a growing grassroots force ready to take action. For instance, in Iowa's 1st District, we identified 17,000 pro-choice voters and turned out the number necessary to provide Bruce Braley with a 3,000-vote margin of victory in his June 6 primary.
In the battle for control of the Senate, pro-choice Americans can proudly support a host of candidates poised to defeat anti-choice incumbents. We have state Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, a farmer with a record of standing up for privacy; Rep. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a champion of women's freedom; and Jim Pederson in Arizona, a respected business leader with solid pro-choice values.
Public opinion is on our side. Pro-Choice candidates are stepping forward. Now is the time for pro-choice activists to employ every strategy necessary to engage voters and elect a pro-choice Congress in 2006. Please visit the elections section on our website for more information on other pro-choice candidates.