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Misleading Poll Used to Support Michigan Super Bill

Robin Marty

The Michigan Catholic Conference is doing everything it can to drum up support for anti-choice bills during the lame duck session, including biased polling on their agenda.

Michigan’s Republicans are still working to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion any way they can, and the Michigan Catholic Conference is doing everything in its power to assist them in their efforts. The GOP and anti-choice politicians lost a great deal of public support during the 2012 campaign season, and voters made it clear on election day that they aren’t interested in seeing women’s health care and reproductive options restricted.

To help reframe the issue and still pursue their agenda, the Catholic Conference is now releasing polling that they say proves that most Michigan residents want clinics that perform abortions to be licensed and subjected to additional inspections.

In a recent press release, the groups states that “85 percent of all respondents, including 76 percent of self-identified Democrat pro-choice women, support the abortion clinic licensing and inspecting policy.”

Those are some pretty significant results. So what exactly did their poll ask?

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“To maintain the health and safety of the public, the State of Michigan requires facilities, such as nursing homes, surgical centers and tattoo parlors to be licensed. However, Michigan law does not currently require most abortion facilities to be licensed. Without a license, state health officials are not able to inspect abortion facilities. Do you support or oppose legislation that would require all abortion facilities in Michigan to be licensed and inspected in order to protect the health and wellbeing of their patients?”

The posing of the question, with that specific wording, is grossly misleading. First of all, note how the question itself studiously avoids mentioning women at all, referring instead to the “public” and to “patients.” The poll was conducted in mid-September during the lull after the national conventions but weeks before widespread coverage of agressive attacks on women’s rights and healthcare turned off so many in the country. It therefore  attempts to cash in on fabricated talking point of women in imminent danger without actually mentioning them at all.

Asking “do you want to protect people’s health and well-being?” couldn’t be anymore leading than asking “do you want people to be injured and die?” No doubt in the land of the Catholic Conference, they really do see that as the same question, but for the majority of the public, a portion of whom have likely sought care at these centers with no incidents, the two are not synonymous.

Just as it has been in states like Kansas, Virginia and others who are looking at clinic licensing and regulation pretending that they are simply seeking to safeguard women’s health, the unnecessary and costly TRAP laws are a “solution” to a non-existent problem.

Meghan Hodge Green, Director of Governmental Relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, told Rewire via email:

Planned Parenthood supports regulations that guarantee the health and safety of all patients. And in fact, Planned Parenthood is already highly regulated and regularly inspected by both state and federal agencies. What the poll doesn’t explain is that some of the proposed regulations are both onerous and unnecessary, which may threaten the ability for providers of offer abortion care at all.

Even more leading than the poll question itself, which was written to virtually guarantee a large showing of public support—even if the public wasn’t entirely sure exactly what it was they were supporting—is that the Catholic Conference is also using the alleged support of clinic regulation as a means of pushing for HB 5711, the omnibus super bill passed by the House in June. After announcing the overwhelming public support their poll designates, the Catholic Conference presents the regulation bill the major issue of concern in HB 5711:

House Bill 5711 passed the Michigan House of Representatives 70-39 on June 13 with bipartisan support and moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in August. The bill currently awaits action by the full Senate. HB 5711 rolls several bills, many of which have already been addressed either by the House, Senate or both, into one pro-life “omnibus” bill, and address the following areas of concern:

  • Change the standard for when an abortion facility must be licensed as an outpatient surgical facility, which would license and inspect 28 of the 32 abortion clinics that remain unlicensed,
  • Prohibit the prescription of an abortion pill via web camera,
  • Prescribe humane disposition of fetal remains from abortions, and
  • Prohibit coerced abortions.

Why no polling on any of these other issues in the bill? Perhaps they couldn’t come up with a way to dress up any of those items and still walk away with majority support.

There is a reason that the polling is from September, and that the bill stalled out without a Senate vote back then. Michigan senators did not want to vote on something they thought would endanger so many reelection campaigns if they supported it. Now, the Senate is expected to take up the bill today, in a lame duck session years away from any repercussions for the politicians who might vote yay. At least, not if their constituents don’t stand up and remind them of the lesson they should have learned on November 6th.

Stop waging war on women.

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