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By Erin O'Neill March 12, 2012

Rush Holt claims a clear majority of Americans support plan to provide free prescription contraceptive coverage

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt says the federal mandate requiring most health care plans to offer free contraceptive coverage makes sense.

And he claims a majority of Americans agree with him.

Fierce debate on the issue erupted when guidelines issued by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department that required insurance plans to cover birth control as preventive services, without co-pays or deductibles, were made final without exemptions for some employers with religious affiliations. On Feb. 10, President Barack Obama announced a compromise: if a religious-affiliated employer objected to providing contraceptive coverage, the responsibility would fall on the insurance company.

In a Feb. 24 e-mail newsletter explaining his support for Obama’s decision, Holt (D- 12th Dist.) said: "Nearly all American women, including women of faith, have used contraception sometimes, and a clear majority of Americans support removing the cost-sharing requirement for prescription contraceptive coverage."

Our colleagues at PolitiFact national recently ruled on a claim that addressed the first half of Holt’s statement. A White House official said: "Most women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used contraception." That claim earned a Mostly True.

With the birth control plan still under fierce scrutiny, we questioned Holt’s other claim. Despite all the rancor, do Americans favor the plan?

Holt’s spokesman, Thomas Seay, pointed to a February health tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation that found that 63 percent of respondents support the "new federal requirement that private health insurance plans cover the cost of birth control" and 33 percent oppose it. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.

But that’s just one poll of 1,519 adults. We found seven other surveys that asked respondents about their views on requiring health care plans to cover birth control. Five support Holt’s claim.

A CBS News/New York Times poll found an even larger majority of Americans -- 66 percent -- support the plan requiring private health insurance plans to cover the full cost of birth control. About a quarter of respondents opposed the plan, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points. When asked specifically about the same requirement for employers with religious affiliations, support decreased slightly, with 61 percent in favor and 31 percent opposed.

A recent Fox News poll found 61 percent of respondents supported "requiring employer health plans to cover birth control for women" and 34 percent opposed. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

A survey by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling conducted on behalf of Planned Parenthood and a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute both found majorities in support of employers providing health care plans that would cover the cost of birth control.

Another poll conducted for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found 53 percent of respondents favored the requirement and 33 percent opposed it, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. That’s a majority, but one that could possibly be affected by the margin of error.

Two of the polls we reviewed found opposition to providing free birth control coverage.

A Quinnipiac University poll with a margin of error of 1.9 percentage points found a split of 47 percent in support of requiring private employers to offer free birth control coverage and 48 percent opposed.

A poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports -- widely considered Republican-leaning -- found 46 percent opposed the plan and 43 percent supported it. The survey had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Our ruling

Holt  said "a clear majority of Americans support removing the cost-sharing requirement for prescription contraceptive coverage."

We found eight polls that recently asked respondents whether they supported or opposed requiring health care plans to cover the cost of birth control.

In six of those surveys there was majority support, only one of which could be impacted by a margin of error. Two others polls showed more opposition than support. Still, Holt’s claim is backed by most of the polls we reviewed.

Overall, this claim is Mostly True.

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Our Sources

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, E-Mail Newsletter, Feb. 24, 2012

The Henry J. Kaiser Family  Foundation, Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, February 2012

Public Religion Research Institute, Majority of Catholics Think Employers Should Be Required to Provide Health Care Plans that Cover Birth Control at No Cost, Feb. 7, 2012

Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, American Voters Hum, 'happy Days Are Here Again,' Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; But Confidence Does Not Lift Obama,  Feb. 23, 2012

Public Policy Polling, Americans Support Obama on Prescription Birth Control Benefit, Feb. 10, 2012

Guttmacher Institute, Insurance Coverage of Contraceptives, March 2012

PolitiFact, White House official says 98 percent of Catholic women have used contraception, Feb. 6, 2012

Guttmacher Institute, "Contraceptive Use Is The Norm Among Religious Women," April 13, 2011

Email interview with Thomas Seay, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, March 7-8, 2012, Fox News Poll Methodology, Feb. 10, 2012, CNN Poll: Half oppose Obama birth control insurance plan, Feb. 16, 2012, Poll: Most back mandating contraception coverage, Feb. 14, 2012

CBS News/New York Times Poll, Some Good Economic News; the President and the November Election, Feb. 14, 2012

Rasmussen Reports, 50% Oppose Gov't Mandate for Religious Organizations to Provide Contraceptives, Feb. 8, 2012

Rasmussen Reports, Questions - Contraceptive Mandate - February 6-7, 2012, accessed March 7, 2012

PolitiFact, The health care law, Catholics and birth control, Feb. 10, 2012

The White House, FACT SHEET: Women’s Preventive Services and Religious Institutions, Feb. 10, 2012

Wall Street Journal, Romney Advances As Obama Gains, March 5, 2012

National Journal, Public Divided Over Birth-Control Coverage, Feb. 28, 2012

Pew Research Center, Public Divided Over Birth Control Insurance Mandate, Feb. 14, 2012

Princeton Survey Research Associates International for National Journal, Final Topline Results, Feb. 27, 2012

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Rush Holt claims a clear majority of Americans support plan to provide free prescription contraceptive coverage

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