Most Americans Oppose Cutting Funds for Planned Parenthood

Americans overwhelmingly oppose cutting off federal funds for Planned Parenthood, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, a debate that is likely to come to a head this week between the Republican-controlled Congress and the Democratic White House.

By 58%-33%, those surveyed Wednesday through Sunday said the group's funding shouldn't be eliminated. The national poll of 1,000 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Both the House and Senate have approved amendments to the budget reconciliation bill that would defund Planned Parenthood. The House is expected to consider the Senate version of the measure this week and send it to the White House, where President Obama has promised to veto it. Another amendment would repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The findings underscore the political risks on the issue for Republican candidates, particularly for senators up for re-election next year in swing states, among them Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine were the only Republicans to vote against the final version of the bill.

In the presidential race, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has denounced GOP efforts to defund the group, which provides contraception and health services for millions of women as well as abortion services. The Republican senators running for president — Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida — all voted in favor of the provision.

While Democratic voters are united in supporting Planned Parenthood funding, 89%-6%, Republicans are somewhat more divided, although most oppose it, 59%-28%. A 54% majority of independents endorse continuing federal spending for group.

Americans are inclined to hold heated political rhetoric partly responsible for the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs last month that killed three people. The alleged shooter, Robert Dear Jr., is expected to appear in court Wednesday to hear prosecutors specify the charges against him. Law enforcement sources have said he said "no more baby parts" in comments to officials after the shooting.

That echoes words used by abortion opponents since an advocacy group released secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the harvesting of fetal tissue for medical research.

In the poll, 46% agreed with the statement: "Heated political rhetoric about Planned Parenthood and abortion bear some of the responsibility for what happened" in the shooting.

In contrast, 36% agreed with the statement:  "The event was a random act of violence and not connected to politics."

The rest were undecided.

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USA Today / Susan Page / Dec. 7, 2015