Catholics Vote for Women's Health

With all the post-election polling analysis, there are many interesting outcomes that merit some soul-searching -- and not just within the political parties.

Exit polls reveal that 54 percent of Catholic voters supported President-elect Barack Obama, despite entreaties from Catholic leadership to vote against Senator Obama because of his support for abortion rights.

While this may come as a surprise to Catholic bishops who are meeting this week to discuss the election, it is consistent with what we know about the attitudes of Catholic voters.

In a poll commissioned by Planned Parenthood last year, Catholic voters were asked to name their largest concerns around the issues of abortion and family planning.

The number-one response was that there are "too many unwanted children in America whose parents can't take care of them."

Second, they said government was too quick to interfere with people's personal lives and private decisions.

And third, government was not doing enough to provide education and resources to help people make responsible decisions about sexual behavior and pregnancy.

In fact, Catholic voters are more likely to support comprehensive sex education in schools (78 percent) than the general public (76 percent). And 86 percent of Catholics favor launching a major effort to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies by both increasing the availability of contraception for low-income women and by providing teens with comprehensive sex education.

Put simply, Catholic voters, just like the rest of America, want government to focus on solving problems for American families, such as increasing access to affordable health care and helping children stay healthy and safe and not become parents before they are ready.

And that is why President-elect Obama was elected by a majority of Americans -- because he has a commonsense agenda to bring people together, expand health care access, and focus on prevention.

The U.S. leads the world's most developed nations in teen pregnancy rates and last year teen birth rates rose for the first time in 14 years. At Planned Parenthood, we work to prevent unintended and teen pregnancy. We provide more than 2.4 million women each year with family planning services -- but nearly another 15 million go unserved due to lack of affordable access.

It's time all of us, including elected leaders and religious leaders, listen to the voters, and get back to promoting the health of women and young people -- healthy families make a healthy America. One would hope this is an agenda that everyone, regardless of religious beliefs, could rally behind.