About three in four Americans think Dr. Henry Foster Jr. deserves a full Senate hearing rather than having his nomination for surgeon general scuttled by the abortion issue, an Associated Press poll finds.
The Tennessee obstetrician-gynecologist faces a difficult fight for Senate confirmation after stumbling over disclosure of the number of abortions he has performed.
One-third of the 1,008 adults in the poll perceive a lack of truthfulness in Foster’s inconsistent accounts. But more respondents, 43 percent, see innocent misstatements. The rest are not sure.
Nineteen percent say Foster’s credibility has suffered so much that President Clinton should withdraw his nomination.
In contrast, 73 percent say Foster deserves a full confirmation hearing. That could come next month, although Foster was already making his case by visiting senators Thursday.
An overwhelming 70 percent in the poll say the fact that Foster performed abortions should not disqualify him from serving as the nation’s chief advocate for public health. Twenty-two percent say the abortions should disqualify him; 8 percent aren’t sure.
The poll was taken Friday through Tuesday by ICR Survey Research Group of Media, Pa., part of AUS Consultants. Results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Support for the nomination outstrips opposition by 36 percent to 22 percent, but 41 percent have no opinion. That includes 29 percent who volunteer that they do not have enough information yet.
Nearly half those who oppose Foster do not think he should be disqualified simply for performing abortions. And those who oppose legalized abortion still favor a full hearing for Foster, 49 percent to 44 percent.
Of those in the poll who generally favor abortion rights, Foster gets 45 percent support and only 14 percent opposition. He is opposed by 44 percent of those who think abortion should not be allowed.
Sixty percent of abortion opponents think his involvement with the procedure disqualifies him, a view rejected by 87 percent of those who favor legalized abortion. Fifty-seven percent of abortion opponents suspect him of lying, compared with 25 percent of those who are for abortion rights.
The poll found 65 percent of U.S. adults think that if a woman wants to have an abortion and her doctor agrees to do it, she should be allowed to have an abortion. Only 22 percent say she should not be allowed, but polls over the years have found substantial additional support for various limits short of outlawing all abortion.
Clinton nominated Foster on Feb. 2, citing his success with a program that has discouraged teen-age pregnancies in Nashville public housing projects.
Since Foster supports abortion rights and distributing condoms to youngsters, he quickly drew opposition from the same conservative groups that hounded Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the surgeon general fired in December.
A Republican senator was told by the White House that Foster performed only one abortion, but the day after his nomination, Foster said it was “fewer than a dozen.” He later revised the number to 39 and said he supervised a drug study in which the pregnancies of 55 women were terminated.