Voters oppose most abortions, poll says
WASHINGTON (BP)--American voters oppose legalized abortion in the overwhelming majority of circumstances allowed under current law, according to a new poll.
The Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, along with the subsequent Doe v. Bolton ruling, legalized abortion nationwide virtually for any reason throughout the nine months of pregnancy. Although 55 percent of voters in the poll supported Roe, that number dropped to 48 percent once they learned about Roe's wide reach. At the same time, opposition to Roe climbed from 34 percent to 43 percent.
The telephone poll of 1,000 registered voters was conduced April 26-May 2 by Ayres McHenry Associates, Inc., for the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Judicial Confirmation Network. The full text of the poll's questions was posted online.
Voters in the poll said they believed abortion for the sake of convenience -- for instance, because the mother says a child would interrupt her career -- should be illegal. A 2004 study by the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute found that 86 percent of abortions are done for the sake of convenience.
According to the poll by Ayres McHenry Associates, voters said abortion should be illegal in the following instances:
-- The woman does not like the sex of the baby (79 percent said that should be illegal, 17 percent said it should be legal.)
-- The woman says a child would interfere with her career or education plans (72 percent illegal, 24 percent legal).
-- The fetus has a "physical abnormality" that could be repaired, such as a cleft palate (66 percent illegal, 28 percent legal).
-- The woman says she cannot afford to raise a child (65 percent illegal, 31 percent legal).
-- The woman says she has enough children (64 percent illegal, 32 percent legal).
-- The woman says she's not ready to raise a child (63 percent illegal, 32 percent legal).
-- The woman is not married (62 percent illegal, 32 percent legal).
-- The pregnancy could pose depression or other mental health problems (51 percent illegal, 42 percent legal).
The poll also found that voters believe abortion should be allowed in four instances: If a pregnancy would endanger the life of the woman (75 percent said it should be legal, while 18 percent said it should be illegal); if the pregnancy poses a treat to the physical health of the woman (70 percent legal, 21 percent illegal); if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest (70 percent legal, 24 percent illegal); and if the fetus has a serious physical or mental deformity (55 percent legal, 36 percent illegal).
But those latter four instances make up only a small percentage of abortions. According to the aforementioned Guttmacher Institute study, 25 percent of women in the 2004 survey said they were having an abortion because they weren't ready for a child, 23 percent because they said they couldn't afford to have one, 19 percent because they didn't want any more children, 8 percent because they didn't want to be a single mother or they had relationship problems, 7 percent because they said they were too young to have a child and 4 percent because they believed a child would interfere with their education or career. That's a combined 86 percent of all abortions.
The Ayres McHenry Associates poll asked voters' opinions about Roe twice -- at the beginning of the poll and at the end. At the beginning, voters backed Roe, 55-34 percent. But after they were told that all the specific circumstances were legal under Roe, 48 supported the landmark decision, 43 percent did not.
In fact, voters in "red states" -- those that supported President Bush in 2000 -- supported overturning Roe, 47-44 percent after being told of the decision's wide reach (they originally supported Roe, 50-39 percent). "Blue state" voters -- those that supported U.S. Sen. John Kerry -- still backed Roe, 53-39 percent, although support fell from 61-27 percent.
In a joint statement, leaders of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Judicial Confirmation Network said the results of the Ayres McHenry Associates poll were "revealing and encouraging."
"For three decades, the abortion industry and other advocates of abortion have misled the public and misrepresented what most Americans really believe about abortion," Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network and Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center noted in a statement. "… For all who care about pro-family and pro-life issues, as well as the proper role of the Supreme Court in our system of government, it is imperative that the American people understand how extreme Roe really is. It is equally imperative that they learn that the reversal of Roe would merely restore to the American people their ability to make abortion policies through their elected representatives, instead of having abortion law made by unelected judges."