Anti-choice Politicians Beware: Large Majority Strongly Opposes Republican Leadership’s “Plans” for Women

Jodi Jacobson

A more than two-thirds majority of voters--including those who voted for Republican/Tea Party candidates in the November 2010 election--strongly oppose the House Republican leadership's declaration of war on women.

One thing you’ve heard over and over from politicians on the right in this month after the election is how focused they plan to be on jobs and the economy.

One thing you might not have heard so much about: While the new Republican House leadership has failed to articulate an economic strategy beyond “cut, cut, cut” and “make the rich richer,” they have a long list of bills they want to pass to restrict women’s health and rights.

Voters say: Not so fast.

A survey funded by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and conducted by Hart Research shows that large majorities of voters–including those who voted Republican or Tea Party in the last election–are strongly against proposed attacks on women’s health and rights.

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The survey was conducted among 802 registered voters between November 5th and 8th, 2010. It 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.”

Key findings from the survey included:

  • Seventy one (71) percent of voters are against 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).
  • Eighty-Eight (88) percent of voters support comprehensive sex education for teens which includes information and training on abstinence as well as birth control and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.  These findings comport with those in earlier surveys.
  • Seventy-five (75) percent of voters support policies to reduce unintended pregnancies through greater access to birth control.
  • Seventy-seven (77) percent of voters disagree with making abortion illegal, including in cases of rape or incest.  Sixty-eight (68) percent of those who voted for the Republican candidate for Congress in 2010 also disagreed.
  • Seventy-four (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.”

The survey results confirmed that even Republican voters in the midterm election overwhelmingly oppose the GOP leadership’s restrictive agenda on women’s health, said Planned Parenthood in a statement, “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 is recognized by 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.”

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, said PPFA, that 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.

This proposal also meets with strong voter opposition with 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.

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.

“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.”

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Guts Florida GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Choice Law

Teddy Wilson

"For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” said Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away."

A federal judge on Thursday permanently blocked two provisions of a Florida omnibus anti-choice law that banned Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds and required annual inspections of all clinics that provide abortion services, reported the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order in June to delay implementation of the law.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly—by withholding otherwise-available public funds—conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly,” Hinkle wrote in the 25-page ruling.  

Thursday’s decision came after Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration decided not to pursue further legal action to defend the law, and filed a joint motion to end the litigation.

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Hinkle issued a three page decision making the injunction permanent.

HB 1411, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March.

The judge’s ruling nixed provisions in the law that banned state funding of abortion care and required yearly clinic inspections. Other provisions of the law that remain in effect include additional reporting requirements for abortion providers, redefining “third trimester,” and revising the care of fetal remains.

The GOP-backed anti-choice law has already had a damaging effect in Palm Beach County, where Planned Parenthood was forced to end a program that focused on teen dropout prevention.

Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement that the ruling was a “victory for thousands of Floridians” who rely on the organization for reproductive health care.

“For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” Zdravecky said. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away.”

A spokesperson for Scott told Reuters that the administration is “reviewing” the decision.

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