Poll: How do Americans feel about Obamacare and Planned Parenthood?

Public approval of Planned Parenthood has waned in recent the years, but women-led activism could block defunding as part of an Obamacare repeal.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/Reuters
An exam room at the Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is shown following the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a Texas law imposing strict regulations on abortion doctors and facilities in Austin, Texas, U.S. June 27, 2016.

Almost two-thirds of American voters oppose cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released on Friday.

An even larger majority, 70 percent, told pollsters they agree with the 1973 Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.

Voter attitudes on abortion were also surveyed in the poll, which found significant support for the procedure. Most respondents said they thought it should be legal in all cases (28 percent) or most cases (36 percent). Just 22 percent said it should be illegal in most cases, and 9 percent in all cases.

The questions came as part of a survey of public opinion on Obamacare, on which most Americans either supported alterations but not a full repeal (51 percent) or no alterations at all (30 percent).

But the section on Planned Parenthood could be the most immediately significant, coming at a time when Republican leaders vow to defund it in any healthcare law that would replace Obamacare. And though decades of conservative animus may have managed to weigh down public esteem of Planned Parenthood, expressions of women-led activism in the early days of the Trump presidency may point to political risks if efforts continue to defund it.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, favorability toward the organization hovered around 80 percent, according to polls performed by Gallup. In 2015, after a pro-life group released videos that purported to show employees talking about selling fetal tissue – a video that the employees said had been edited to misrepresent the conversation’s nature – the group’s public image took a hit, with Gallup finding only 59 percent with a favorable or very favorable view of the group. And a much higher percentage felt very unfavorably: 23 percent, as opposed to the 4 or 5 percent who said as much in the earlier surveys.

But the Women’s Marches that took place on inauguration day may suggest that the prospect of the group’s disappearance could galvanize support. The marches drew a motley assortment of protestors, including anti-abortion activists, but Planned Parenthood served as one of the most important organizers.

About 10,000 marchers showed up in the nation’s capital as part of the group’s caravan, according to New York magazine. In the aftermath of the election, supporters have reached for their wallets, too, with a deluge of donations filling the group’s coffers.

A common theme among speakers at the protests, reported The Christian Science Monitor’s Linda Feldman, was to stoke the marches into a longer-burning sort of activism:

In Washington, high-profile speakers – from feminist icon Gloria Steinem to filmmaker Michael Moore to actress Ashley Judd – rallied the crowd with exhortations to step up their activism. Marching in Washington is great, they said, but more is needed: Volunteer for progressive groups, donate money, call members of Congress, run for office yourselves.

Attendees, many wearing the pink knit hats that came to symbolize the protest, echoed that view.

“This is just the start,” says Susan Linderman of Delaware, who took part in civil-rights protests in the 1960s.

Ms. Linderman says she has started contributing to such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood. But she wants to do more than just write checks. “I’ll call Planned Parenthood on Monday to see if they need volunteers,” she says.

That outpouring of activism may determine how avidly top Republicans pursue defunding plans. As NPR reported earlier this month, a healthcare repeal can’t pass without an aye from several Republican senators who have voted against past defunding measures.

"Obviously, I'm not happy to hear the speaker wants to include defunding of Planned Parenthood, an extremely controversial issue in the package,” Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, who is among that group, told CNN this month.

"I'm going to wait and see what happens.”

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