U.S. women see assault on reproductive rights: poll

WASHINGTON Thu May 31, 2012 12:27am EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About one-third of American women believe there is a broad effort under way to limit their access to reproductive services including contraception, family planning and abortion, according a poll released on Thursday.

After months of election-year culture wars over Planned Parenthood, abortion and President Barack Obama's policy on contraceptives, researchers said 42 percent of women have felt strongly enough to take some sort of action including trying to influence another's opinions or donating money.

But the survey of 1,218 adults, conducted by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, said reproductive rights have not become a hot-button presidential campaign issue for women, who see the economy and jobs are far more important topics for Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney.

The data found that 31 percent of women believe there is a wide-scale effort to limit reproductive services. That includes about one-quarter of Republican women, 36 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independents.

About 25 percent of men agree.

But a larger number of women -- 45 percent -- believe the effort against reproductive rights is limited to some groups but is not wide-scale, the data showed. Seven percent said no such effort exists.

The results follow a series of high-profile clashes between social conservatives, the Obama administration and women's rights supporters.

The issue of contraception surged to the forefront of America's culture wars after the Obama administration said it would require the employees of religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and charities to have coverage for women's contraceptives.

Forty-three Roman Catholic institutions including the University of Notre Dame have sued to block the policy, despite administration promises of a compromise.

A national debate over abortion also engulfed leading breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure this year, after the organization bowed to anti-abortion pressure by temporarily cutting grant money for Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions.

Kaiser said 36 percent of Catholic women believe there is wide-scale opposition to reproductive rights vs. 20 percent of Evangelical women.

Fewer than one in five conservative women perceive a broad movement, compared to 43 percent of liberals and 30 percent of moderates.

But only a tiny fraction of women -- no more than 5 percent -- want to hear from Obama or Romney about abortion, women's health or other women's issues.

That compares with 60 percent who want to hear the candidates talk about the economy and jobs, and 23 percent who view healthcare generally as a top issue.

The polling data has a 5 percentage point margin of error for women's responses.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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