A new poll from PRRI has found wide generational gaps on issues of abortion, reproductive health, and sexual assault.
“As this younger generation continues to flex its political muscles—as we saw in the response to the Parkland shooting—they could also reshape the national conversation on women’s health issues,” said PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones in a statement.
The poll, released today, found that nearly all Americans believe that health insurance plans, both private and government-provided, should cover birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Fewer than half of those surveyed, however, believe abortion should be covered under most health-care plans. Though women were generally more in favor of abortion access and wider health-care coverage, and were more likely to prioritize the issue when deciding how to vote, the bigger gaps on questions of abortion were those of age, as well as education level and political affiliation.
Of people aged 18 to 29, 65 percent said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. And while most Americans’ views on legality have remained relatively unchanged over the past decade, younger Americans were more likely to say their views on abortion have changed in recent years—overwhelmingly to a position of greater support for abortion rights, perhaps mirroring the broad leftward shift of the millennial generation.
The poll also uncovered a wide generation gap on perceptions of how difficult abortions are to obtain. Despite the fact that restrictive state policies have closed clinics across the country, sometimes forcing women to travel days or across state lines to get the procedure, nearly half of Americans said that obtaining an abortion in their community was not that difficult. But here, too, age was a stronger predictor of perceptions of availability than even gender or partisan affiliation. Nearly half (49 percent) of young people thought that local abortions were at least somewhat difficult to obtain, compared with just 26 percent of people over the age of 65. And while more than two-thirds (69 percent) of young people believe there should be abortion providers in their community, only 46 percent of seniors felt the same.
While the differences between millennials and seniors are the most glaring, the survey also highlighted different levels of support for abortion rights by race and religion, with black Americans generally more supportive and white evangelicals often, predictably, an outlier in their opposition. A pronounced gender divide also exists in perceptions of sexual assault and harassment cases. While the majority of Americans believe unreported or disbelieved cases to be a bigger problem than the specter of false accusations, nearly a third of men think that false accusations are more worrisome, especially Republican men (41 percent).
“Given this,” PRRI Director of Strategic Engagement Carolyn Davis said in a statement, “the [Republican] party is not likely to prioritize effectively combating sexual harassment or assault unless the women of the party push the GOP to action.”
Whether that is likely remains a mystery, but it’s a safe bet that it will be a while before the Republican Party catches up to the majority of the country—and especially to the younger generation—if it catches up at all.
Last week, the Maryland General Assembly approved a bill that would require all state correctional facilities to have written medical-care policies for incarcerated pregnant women—the first of its kind in the country, according to NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland.
Under the new legislation, which goes into effect in October, all facilities must submit to a legislative commission—and, importantly, to incarcerated patients—a written policy regarding things like prenatal care, abortion access, and labor and delivery. Incarcerated women are often afraid to ask for needed care like pregnancy testing or emergency miscarriage management, says Diana Philip, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, or they might not even be aware of their rights. The requirement of a written policy clarifies for both patients and prison employees what kind of care pregnant inmates are entitled to receive. “I think one of the great things about this bill is that the person who is pregnant will be handed that policy,” Philip told the Prospect.
The state legislature also passed a bill that would provide inmates with free menstrual hygiene products. “Incarcerated women have limited resources and are often forced to deal with poor conditions,” Philip said in a statement. While she acknowledges that there remains the challenge of monitoring facilities’ adherence to policies, “[b]oth of these bills take a step in the right direction to ensure their basic needs are met.”
As states across the nation try to handle their growing female prison populations, reproductive-rights advocates have been shining a light on the treatment of detained and incarcerated women who are pregnant. According to New York magazine, six states (Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Utah) still allow the shackling of female inmates while they’re in labor, a practice that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says “may not only compromise health care but is demeaning and rarely necessary.” North Carolina recently revised its policy on restraints, prohibiting the use of leg or waist restraints when the inmate is in labor, and Connecticut lawmakers have introduced a bill that would bar such restraints during pregnancy or the postpartum period, and prohibit the use of any restraints during labor. The Connecticut bill would also require the state to provide incarcerated women with menstrual hygiene products free of charge.
In a signed letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Democrats noted that the supposed purpose of H.R. 620—to prevent “drive-by” lawsuits—is not actually addressed by the bill, since the ADA does not permit monetary relief in the form of damages or settlements. Instead, H.R. 620 gives businesses 120 days to make “substantial progress” toward complying with the law, and only after the business has received written notice from an affected person with a disability. When the ADA was passed, as the letter says, “[t]he expectation was that businesses would make themselves accessible before people with disabilities showed up … rather than waiting until receiving a notice that people with disabilities have been excluded before starting to think about complying with the law.”
Duckworth, who lost her legs while serving in Iraq, wrote a Washington Post op-ed in October 2017 condemning H.R. 620, and spoke against it on the House floor in February, just before it passed that chamber on mostly party lines. Proponents of H.R. 620 include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the retail and hotel industries, which claim that the bill protects businesses from complaints over minor ADA infractions. “We reject in the strongest terms,” wrote the senators, “the offensive suggestion by supporters of H.R. 620 that a civil rights violation denying access to a public space could ever be ‘minor.’”
Disability-rights groups have been vocal in their opposition to H.R. 620, which McConnell could bring up for a vote at any time. The letter, signed by 43 Democratic senators (all except Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Bill Nelson of Florida) signals to McConnell that the coalition has enough votes to filibuster any attempt to bring H.R. 620 to the floor.
On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood announced a plan to invest $20 million in the 2018 midterm elections, the organization’s largest midterm campaign effort yet.
The electoral battle plan initially targets gubernatorial and Senate races in eight states—Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—with plans to expand to other states and smaller races. Of those states, the campaign’s newly unveiled website pledges to focus its energy on “key races” in Nevada, where many consider Republican Senator Dean Heller to be vulnerable; Pennsylvania, where Democratic Governor Tom Wolf faces re-election; and Wisconsin, where Planned Parenthood wants to help oust Republican Governor Scott Walker and re-elect Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin.
Citing Democratic successes in Alabama and Virginia in 2017 that were thanks in large part to the mobilization of women voters, particularly black women, Kelley Robinson, Planned Parenthood’s national organizing director, said the organization hopes to capitalize on that political momentum and “channel the activism” of its 11 million supporters.
Recent years have seen Planned Parenthood transform itself from a woman’s health organization to a massive political force under the leadership of Cecile Richards, who announced in late January that she would be stepping down as president. In 2017, as supporters fought against efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and defund the organization, Planned Parenthood launched an organizer-training program, with volunteer “boot camps” intended to strengthen an activist network across all 50 states.
“This year,” Planned Parenthood Press Secretary Ben Halle told the Prospect in an email, “we’ll be turning to our volunteers to help us continue to fight against attacks against Planned Parenthood and access to health care, to work in their communities to educate and engage people on these issues, as well as help us win at the ballot box in 2018.”
A new national poll of voters with disabilities released this week spotlights a dramatic shift in their political leanings toward Democrats. Numbering in the tens of millions, voters in the disability community boast a huge political and electoral power that could prove decisive in this year’s midterms. Yet for a group with such potentially significant electoral strength, remarkably little attention has been devoted toward learning more about their political behavior.
The poll, conducted by Greenberg Research for the nonprofit RespectAbility, reveals that more than half of registered voters identify as being a part of the disability community, whether they have a disability themselves, or they have family or close friends with disabilities. And signs point to this sizable population’s support shifting to the Democrats.
People with disabilities have on average a more negative opinion of President Donald Trump, and by a 16-point margin favor the Democratic candidate in a generic 2018 congressional ballot. “The biggest negative feelings toward the Republican Congress is among people with disabilities,” said pollster Stan Greenberg during a teleconference briefing on Tuesday. This hasn’t always been the case—in 2014, they broke for the Republicans by 11 points, and were split in 2016. “Something is happening that’s affecting the kind of even split, the swing-voter status of people with disabilities,” Greenberg added.
While their swing toward the Democrats reflects a similar nationwide anti-Trump shift, recent events—such as disability rights groups’ highly publicized protests in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office over threats to the Affordable Care Act last summer—could be pushing these voters to the left. And in the weeks since the poll was conducted in January, lawmakers have done even more to alienate disabled voters. On February 12, the White House released its 2019 budget, which cuts funding for federal disability programs. That same week, the House voted to pass the ADA Education and Reform Act, which would gut key protections in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The 16-point Democratic advantage is especially notable when considering that voters with disabilities are, according to the poll, heavily working class and five times as likely to be unemployed and looking for work—and more likely to be “extremely interested” in the 2018 midterm elections. “There’s all kinds of reasons why these views and needs should be important to all political leaders and opinion informers, but some of that is self-interest,” said Greenberg.
The poll also measured the views of voters with disabilities on the GOP tax cut (half strongly oppose) and the ACA (they view it more favorably than people outside the disability community). But because of sample-size limitations, the poll was not broken up by race or gender, nor were certain historical comparisons available (for instance, how those voters with disabilities felt about the ACA in 2014).
Lauren Appelbaum, the communications director at RespectAbility, which works to get disability included in major national polls the same way race and gender is, says that the stigmatization of disability is a major reason that community is largely ignored by policymakers and strategists. Considering the political opinions of people with disabilities “is definitely something that pollsters should be doing,” Appelbaum told the Prospect. “This poll really shows that people should be paying attention.”