ABORTION: Americans Conflicted on Abortion Rights
More than 25 years after the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision, a Los Angeles Times poll suggests that support for abortion rights may be waning as "Americans adopt a more nuanced view of the circumstances under which abortions should be allowed." The poll surveyed 2,071 Americans -- 986 men and 1,085 women -- from June 8-13 and found that only 43% of current survey respondents support Roe v. Wade, down from 46% in 1996 and 56% in 1991. However, the poll also found "continued opposition" to a constitutional ban on the procedure. Although more than 50% of the individuals surveyed believe that abortion should either be illegal in all circumstances or legal only in cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life is in danger, more than two-thirds said that, regardless of their own opinion, the decision to end a pregnancy should be left to a woman and her physician. Further, while 57% of respondents consider abortion an act of murder, more than half of that group believe that a woman should have the right to choose an abortion. "Americans, in terms of their own code of morality, may view abortion as murder and may be comfortable with it being illegal, but most Americans don't want to impose that on other people," Susan Carroll, a senior research associate at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that abortion should be illegal after the first trimester, with 65% opposing abortions in the second trimester. Female respondents felt more strongly about the issue, as 72% of female respondents supported a ban on second-trimester abortions, compared with 58% of men. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed support abortion when a woman's physical health is at risk, 54% when her emotional health is at risk and 66% when the fetus is at risk for an abnormality. Regarding the use of the abortifacient RU-486, 43% favor making the drug widely available, up from 32% 11 years ago, and 46% oppose making the drug widely available.
While public support for a woman's right to choose an abortion has remained steady in the past two decades, Americans seem to feel "increasingly comfortable considering limitations on its availability." Poll experts contend that support for legal abortion typically increases when abortion rights are threatened, as it did in 1991 when many states were pushing Legislatures to severely limit abortion or ban it completely. Survey results may prove important for the upcoming presidential elections, as 34% of those surveyed said that if they learned that a candidate's position on abortion differed from their own, they would not vote for that candidate (Rubin, 6/18).