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Catholics Support Healthcare Reform, Including Coverage for Abortion

September 30, 2009

According to a new poll of Catholic voters carried out by Belden Russonello and Stewart for Catholics for Choice, Catholics support both a public option in healthcare reform and a plan that would include funding for abortion. The results show that the views of Catholics have been seriously misrepresented by the US bishops and by conservative Catholics in the debate over healthcare reform. A large majority of those polled, 84 percent, attend church regularly, from several times a week to a few times a year.

While Catholic voters are split on President Obama’s ideas for healthcare reform, they do want to see costs lowered and overwhelmingly support a government plan that would make health insurance available to the uninsured.

Large majorities of Catholic voters support health insurance coverage for abortions—either in a private or a government-run scheme:

  • when a pregnancy poses a threat to the life of a woman (84 percent)
  • when a pregnancy is due to rape or incest (76 percent)
  • when a pregnancy poses long-term health risks for the woman (73 percent)
  • when test results show a fetus has a severe abnormal condition (66 percent)

Opinion is split on whether insurance plans should cover abortion whenever a woman and her doctor decide it is appropriate (50 percent support and 50 percent oppose).

Catholic voters believe the US Catholic bishops are wrong on healthcare reform. Sixty-eight percent disapprove of US bishops saying that all Catholics should oppose the entire healthcare reform plan if it includes coverage for abortion and 56 percent think the bishops should not take a position on healthcare reform legislation in Congress.

Despite what many conservatives argue, Catholic voters are against refusal clauses for institutions that take taxpayer dollars. Sixty-five percent said that hospitals and clinics that take taxpayer dollars should not be allowed to refuse certain procedures or medications based on religious beliefs. In addition, 60 percent believe that hospitals and clinics that take taxpayer dollars should be required to include condoms as part of HIV prevention.

CFC president Jon O’Brien said, “Conservatives, including the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, have been presenting their own views as an accurate representation of all US Catholics. This poll clearly demonstrates that the bishops do not represent Catholic voters. Catholics have compassion. They want everybody to have access to comprehensive healthcare—including abortion in many circumstances. It is telling that the US bishops have done two polls on abortion recently. On neither occasion did they poll only Catholics. We did and the results are clear:  US Catholic voters see reproductive healthcare as part of a comprehensive healthcare package—and that includes abortion for women who need it.”

Pollster John Russonello from Belden Russonello and Stewart said, “We have been chronicling the opinions and voting patterns of Catholics for many years and the lesson of today’s survey is consistent with our previous findings: Catholic views on healthcare and abortion are mainstream American views.”

Read a one-page summary of the poll (PDF)

Read the entire poll with detailed findings (PDF)