The majority of Americans hold fairly progressive views on reproductive rights, according a new poll, but their views are at odds with many of the policies Republican leadership promotes. And those views are markedly more progressive than the policies promoted in the health care bill the House will vote on on Thursday.
Right now, Trumpcare’s fate is uncertain and its future looks bleak — Republicans need almost every caucus vote they have to pass it, and the right-wing Freedom Caucus has been whipping votes against it because they argue it isn’t conservative enough.
The bill would roll back Medicaid (disproportionately affecting women and children), defund Planned Parenthood, and make abortion coverage more difficult and expensive to obtain.
Researchers at the nonpartisan polling firm PerryUndem surveyed a representative sample of registered voters in early March, and the poll found found that all of these measures run contrary to the beliefs of a majority of voters.
Seventy-four percent of voters don’t want to take away federal funding of Planned Parenthood — funding that currently supports birth control, STD testing, and cancer screenings for low-income women and men. The poll also found that 63 percent of voters oppose restricting access to abortion care, and 83 percent want to keep Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
Researchers also dug deeper into one of the biggest questions for women’s health insurance going forward — the fate of the birth-control mandate.
Currently, the Republican plan doesn’t repeal Obamacare’s requirement that insurers cover contraceptives with no copay. That’s not necessarily because they don’t want to: The Obamacare repeal-and-replace is moving forward under a process called budget reconciliation, which allows them to pass it without Democratic votes. Using that process, however, also means lawmakers are limited to only measures that they can argue have to do with the budget.
In fact, one of the biggest hurdles facing the bill is opposition from the far-right Freedom Caucus, which objects precisely because the bill preserves those mandates, including the one covering birth control. Proponents of the bill have argued in response that this is just the first of three “prongs” — and that they’ll tackle mandates at a later stage.
The Trump administration could also get rid of the birth control mandate without Congress by adjusting the regulations. That puts Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in charge — and Price has previously said that he doesn’t think any women need help paying for birth control.
In his confirmation hearings, he refused to commit to keeping the birth control mandate intact, saying only “there are avenues in the heath care system that doctors and hospitals take to make sure people can get the health care they need.”
In contrast to Price’s glib assurance that all women can easily pay for contraceptive care, one in seven women told researchers in the survey that they if they had to pay anything, they wouldn’t be able to afford it. One in three said that they could afford to pay only $10 or less.
Additionally, in Congress, issues like birth control access are often relegated to the side as fringe concerns or “women’s issues” and therefore secondary. When they do take center stage, there’s often an ideological tinge — which survey respondents recognized in the survey.
Seventy-one percent said that politicians treat women’s health care as a political issue. Only 25 percent said politicians make men’s health care political. And if the case were reversed, and men were the ones who got pregnant, 75 percent thought that Congress would want to keep the birth control benefit instead of musing about repealing it.
In reality, though, birth control access is more than a political issue: It can have far-reaching implications for women, which a majority of voters in the survey recognized. A majority said that affordable birth control access is an issue of gender equality and economic well-being — for women, their families, and their communities.
Recognition of this intersectionality cut across demographics, though there were some differences: Women, overall, were more likely to see connections than men, and black and Latino voters were more likely to recognize economic effects than white voters. Still, the results held for a majority of each demographic group.
Voters also saw birth control as an issue affecting women’s sexual freedom — which they support. An overwhelming 80 percent of respondents said they believed women should be able to have sex for pleasure, not just for reproduction. Seventy-six percent responded that men should be able to have sex for pleasure.
Men, however, didn’t respond that they had benefit from a woman in their life having access to birth control. While 54 percent of men said they believed women being able to access birth control had an effect on their happiness, only 37 percent believed they had personally benefited from women on birth control.
Overall, the survey shows for many American women, affordable access to birth control is an issue with repercussions across many aspects of their lives — from sexual to economic. It’s recognized as such across demographic groups.
And still, Congressional Republicans have yet to give a clear answer on the future of the mandate. Instead, they have signaled their legislative priorities are attacking Planned Parenthood and so-called “taxpayer-funded abortions” (actually, the Hyde Amendment prevents any federal money from going directly to abortion care).
According to the survey, these aren’t priorities for Americans — and neither is repealing Obamacare. Most survey respondents said that lowering premiums and focusing on Americans’ access to care should be lawmakers’ first priority.
All of these results add up to one lesson: according to the data, GOP priorities on women’s health are actually more regressive than that of many Americans.