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Opinion Survey Shows Broad Support in U.S. for Action to Bolster Reproductive Health Care

Voters broadly share a desire for change in public policy and government action on issues surrounding reproductive health care and abortion; voters want to know lawmakers understand the complexity of these issues and have specific and comprehensive commonsense solutions for changing the country’s approach.

Washington, D.C., July 12, 2007 – As Congress considers a wide array of reproductive health issues during this year’s appropriations season, a national opinion survey sponsored by the National Women’s Law Center and Planned Parenthood Federation of America demonstrates overwhelming support across broad constituencies for positive and proactive movement by policymakers on issues surrounding contraception and reproductive health care more broadly.  The survey of 1,870 voters uncovered deep dissatisfaction by a margin of 58 percent to 24 percent with the country’s current approach to reproductive health issues and found that voters express broad-based support for proactive public policy changes on these issues.  Voters surveyed are looking to elected officials to provide commonsense solutions to problems such as limited access to contraceptives and a lack of comprehensive sex education in public schools.

Fully 76 percent of voters wanted to see U.S. public schools teaching comprehensive sex education including majorities of Democrats (83 percent), Republicans (66 percent), Independents (76 percent), Catholics (78 percent), and evangelical Christians (60 percent).  Only 14 percent of voters surveyed supported teaching “abstinence-only” in public schools.  Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of voters strongly favor making it easier for women at all income levels to obtain contraceptives.  Seventy-one percent of voters also expressed strong opposition to protections for pharmacy policies that allow pharmacists to refuse to fill doctors’ prescriptions on the basis of individual objections.  The survey also revealed strong support for an array of other policy initiatives, ranging from protecting women and health care providers from clinic violence and intimidation to requiring insurance equity for contraceptive coverage.

“The results of this research are clear, and members of Congress should take notice,” said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center.  “Americans overwhelmingly support a reproductive health agenda that will make a real difference in the lives of women and their families.  Voters are not happy with the status quo, and want to see action on a range of reproductive health issues – from contraceptive coverage to comprehensive sex education.”

"Americans are looking for commonsense approaches to America’s health care crisis," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.  "The research is startling in the clarity of voters' positions in favor of comprehensive sex education, access to contraception and helping women prevent unintended pregnancies.  The current administration is way out of line with these positions, as we learned when the former surgeon general testified that he was prevented from talking about the effectiveness of contraception and comprehensive sex education."
 
This groundbreaking research was aimed at understanding reproductive health and abortion-related issues within a policy context and was designed to understand what voters want government to do and how voters want policymakers to act in addressing these issues.  In just the last several weeks, Congress has considered legislation to improve U.S. international family planning policy, reauthorize the Title V abstinence-only program, and provide funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes funding for domestic family planning services.  In light of the many opportunities for policymakers to reshape the U.S. commitment to reproductive health, the survey results make clear that voters overwhelmingly want elected officials to take advantage of opportunities like these to expand support for commonsense policies.

These findings are based on a poll conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates.  The telephone survey consisted of 1,870 registered voters with oversamples of African-American and Hispanic voters from March 16 to 25, 2007.  The margin of error for the overall findings is +/-2.3% and is higher for specific subgroups. 

For a more detailed analysis of the poll results the full text of the memo is below.

Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc.

1724 Connecticut Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20009
202-234-5570
202-232-8134 fax

M E M O R A N D U M
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Planned Parenthood Federation of America and National Women’s Law Center
DATE: July 12, 2007
RE:  Application of Research Findings

On behalf of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Women’s Law Center, Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., has undertaken a comprehensive multi-stage research project focused on issues surrounding reproductive health and abortion.  The research was driven by several core objectives, including identifying policy opportunities to advance a pro-family planning, pro-reproductive rights agenda.

The first stage of research involved six focus groups among voters who express ambivalence about abortion policy. This qualitative stage was followed a large-scale national survey of 1,870 voters with oversamples of African-American and Hispanic voters.

This research differs from other recent research efforts in at least two regards. First, this research project explicitly seeks to build on the valuable research that already has been done in this area. Second, and related, this research’s scope is entirely focused on understanding these issues within a policy context; that is, rather than delving into people’s personal feelings about abortion and reproductive health issues, this research is purposefully limited to understanding what voters want government to do and how voters want policymakers to act in addressing these issues.

Policy Opportunities

1. A wide range of pro-family planning and pro-reproductive rights policy opportunities enjoy strong support from all types of voters.  Importantly, the backdrop to these policy opportunities is a national climate—clearly revealed by the data—that is centered around voters’ desire for change in public policy and government action on issues surrounding reproductive health care and abortion, rather than continuing with the status quo. 

In fact, voters overwhelmingly describe themselves as dissatisfied with the country’s approach to reproductive health issues; by 58% to 24% they say the country is headed off on the wrong track rather than in the right direction on issues such as sex education, contraception, unintended pregnancy, and abortion.  Driving this frustration is a strong desire for a greater emphasis on prevention, including broader access to comprehensive sex education.

Policymakers who remain silent on these issues place themselves within a status quo framework that is both deficient and incomplete in the minds of voters.

2. Unequivocally, the unifying issue on voters’ agenda for government and policymakers centers around the need for better sex education; in fact, a majority of voters in nearly every demographic category, including  Democrats, Republicans, and independents, as well as Catholics and evangelical Christians, support comprehensive sex education.

3. Voters also strongly support a variety of different legislative efforts to expand access to contraception;  opposition to so-called “pharmacy refusal” is an important foundation of this sentiment.  Voters overwhelmingly support measures aimed at “protecting the right of individuals to get contraception without government interference or intrusion” (75% strongly favor), “making it easier for women at all income levels to obtain contraceptives” (73% strongly favor), and “requiring insurance plans to cover contraception if the plan also covers prenatal care for pregnant women” (61% strongly favor).

Although a majority of voters admit that they have never heard of pharmacists refusing to fill doctors’ prescriptions on the basis of moral or religious objections, opposition to “pharmacy refusal” is a strong rallying point for many of them—71% of voters say that pharmacists should not be allowed to refuse to fill prescriptions on moral or religious grounds, including majorities of nearly every voter demographic such as Republicans (56%), Catholics (73%), and evangelical Christians (53%).

Support for Contraceptive Coverage
% who strongly favor each possible bill
  All
Voters
%
"Conflicted"
Voters**
%
Protect the right of individuals to get contraception without government interference or intrusion 75 82
Make it easier for women at all income levels to obtain contraceptives 73 82
Require insurance plans to cover contraception if the plan also covers prenatal care for pregnant women 61 66
** “ Conflicted voters” are defined as voters who say that abortion should be legal only in extreme cases such as rape, incest, and to save the mother’s life, but who also say they do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned and can accept someone else’s position on abortion even if they would not make the same decision.


4. Voters strongly support a broad array of other policy initiatives ranging from ensuring the accuracy of information provided at publicly funded crisis pregnancy centers to protecting women and health care providers from clinic violence.  Support for every policy initiative tested is even stronger among “conflicted” voters than among voters overall—the data consistently demonstrate that a proactive policy dialogue with these voters is especially critical for policymakers to initiate in seeking to connect with this unique constituency’s goals.

Additional Proactive Policy Solutions
% who strongly favor each possible bill
  All
Voters
%
"Conflicted"
Voters**
%
Require public schools to inform parents about whether or not their children are being taught the risks and benefits of contraception and how to prevent diseases such as HIV and AIDS 76 80
Require public schools to be teach comprehensive sex education, which includes information about contraception, abstinence, and how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and AIDS 75 81
Make sure that publicly funded crisis pregnancy centers cannot give women false or misleading information about their pregnancy or the options available to them, including abortion 73 77
Require pharmacies to dispense contraception to patients without discrimination or delay 73 79
Ensure that publicly funded crisis pregnancy centers provide pregnant women with information about the full range of pregnancy options 71 83
Protect women and health care providers against clinic violence and harassment from anti-abortion protestors by increasing penalties for these acts 71 81
Launch a major effort to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies by both increasing the availability of contraception for low-income women and by providing teens comprehensive sex education 67 74
Protect patients and health care providers entering abortion clinics by making it illegal for anti-abortion protestors to videotape them and post their pictures on the Internet 67 74
Increase the availability of contraception and provide support, such as health care and child care to balance work and family responsibilities, for women who choose to have a child 61 70
Prevent state governments from restricting abortion in cases where a woman's health is in jeopardy 59 64
** “ Conflicted voters” are defined as voters who say that abortion should be legal only in extreme cases such as rape, incest, and to save the mother’s life, but who also say they do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned and can accept someone else’s position on abortion even if they would not make the same decision.
###

 



Contacts

Ranit Schmelzer (NWLC), 202-588-5180
Amy Weiss (Point Blank Public Affairs for PPFA), 202-203-0448
Debra DeShong Reed (Point Blank Public Affairs for PPFA), 202-528-4214
Andrea Hagelgans (PPFA), 212-261-4652
Published: 07.13.07

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