Voters in key battleground states oppose defunding Planned Parenthood

Poll shows it's a risky move for GOP senators

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Republican senators looking to pick up votes by defunding Planned Parenthood might want to try a different strategy—at least according to a poll released Monday.

A survey conducted by Hart Research Associates for Planned Parenthood measured how voters in the key battleground states of New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania reacted to statements by their senators saying they aimed to defund the women’s health organization countrywide. And the results were not pretty.

Simply put, the poll shows there is “broad and deep” opposition to defunding Planned Parenthood in those three states. Around 500 people in each state were surveyed with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. New Hampshire respondents opposed defunding by 66 percent, Ohio was at 65 percent and Pennsylvania showed a 69 percent disapproval.

The Hart poll is in line with a national poll released last week by Monmouth University that found that 49 percent of Americans oppose cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood while only 39 percent support it.

Numbers also weren’t positive for the three senators, up for re-election in 2016, who represent those battleground states. All recently signed a bill hoping to strip the $528 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood.

The poll found that a majority of voters in each state would be less likely to support their senators as a result of their vote to defund Planned Parenthood. Roughly two thirds of respondents would be even more reluctant to re-elect their senators if they were to support a drastic approach to defunding Planned Parenthood that is currently being talked about in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail—shutting down the federal government to force the issue.

Three Republican senators, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania and Robert Portman of Ohio voted last week to stop federal funding from going to Planned Parenthood, largely due to recent allegations by conservatives that some of the money goes towards abortions -- which apparently isn't correct based on a law passed in 1976.

The assertions followed the recent release of a number of videos secretly tapped by the Center for Medical Progress showing members of Planned Parenthood discussing fetal tissue harvesting following abortions. Although some of the videos apparently were heavily edited to make it appear that Planned Parenthood would benefit monetarily by selling fetus tissues, it has since become clear that is not the case.   

Though the Republican-led measure failed to gather enough votes to move forward from the Senate, many conservatives in Congress as well as Republican presidential hopefuls are vying to continue to fight to cut federal ties with the women’s health organization.

Sen. Ayotte is one of many Republican senators who have voted on more than one occasion to strip funding to Planned Parenthood. In a statement released Aug. 3, she backed her action saying, “I do not support the use of taxpayer dollars to fund a private organization that performs hundreds of thousands of abortions each year and harvests babies' body parts, which is why I voted to redirect funding to community health centers that provide women's health services such as cancer screenings, mammograms, and contraceptives."

Presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Donald Trump also have made it clear they believe American taxpayer money should not go to the clinics. One extreme Trump suggested is that a government shutdown might be necessary to defund the group.

He told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, “If the Republicans stuck together you could have done it with Obamacare also, but the Republicans decided not to stick together and they left a few people out there like Ted Cruz.”

But what were respondents’ thoughts on shutting down the government in order to cut Planned Parenthood backing? They liked the idea even less than defunding Planned Parenthood through congressional vote. Overwhelming majorities of voters in New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania had critical reactions to the idea polling at 75, 74 and 76 percent respectively against it. 

“Today's poll makes it clear: American voters continue to stand strongly with Planned Parenthood and reject these transparently political attacks,” said President of Hart Research Associates Geoff Carin in a statement. “As this poll, and the three national polls before it have shown us, there is a political price to pay for politicians who attack Planned Parenthood and get swept up in a race to the bottom on women's health.”

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