16 January 2019, The Tablet

'Substantial' restrictions on abortion wanted by 75 per cent of Americans, poll shows


Those who identify as "pro-choice" not necessarily strongly in favour of unrestricted access to abortion, says Poll director


'Substantial' restrictions on abortion wanted by 75 per cent of Americans, poll shows

Pro-life advocates celebrate the annual March for Life in Washington in this 2017 file photo
Photo: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

An annual poll of Americans' views on abortion shows that 75 per cent want "substantial" restrictions on abortion access even as more than half of respondents describe themselves as "pro-choice."

Conducted by the Marist Poll at Marist College, the survey of 1,066 adults 8-10 January revealed that respondents would welcome limits on abortion so that it can be performed only during the first three months of pregnancy.

Even 61 per cent of "pro-choice" respondents favoured such a restriction. Unsurprisingly, 96 per cent of respondents who identified as pro-life supported such a restriction.

Among Republicans, 92 per cent support abortion limits, while 60 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of independents shared the same view.

"What you're getting here is the sense that the debate over abortion when you look at what people want in terms of restrictions ... is in favour of substantial restriction on abortion," said Andrew Walter, vice president for communications and strategic planning for the Knights of Columbus, during a 16 Janiary teleconference with reporters.

The Knights have sponsored the poll since 2008.

Barbara Carvalho, Marist Poll director, said the results show that there is not "a really polarised electorate" when it comes to abortion.

"We actually see where there is a good deal of common ground on the whole host of policy decisions (related to abortion)," she said during the teleconference.

She said the survey results reveal that those who identify as "pro-choice" are not necessarily strongly in favour of unrestricted access to abortion as is widely portrayed in media and among some advocates in the strongly pro-life and "pro-choice" camps.

The poll also asked respondents about their views on what the US Supreme Court should do if it decides to revisit the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalised abortion, with 49 percent saying the decision should revert to the states. Thirty per cent said abortion should be legal without restriction while 16 per cent said it always should be illegal.

Other findings in the poll show:

-- By a 54 per cent to 39 per cent margin, respondents oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.

-- A far larger majority -- 75 per cent to 19 per cent -- oppose the use of tax dollars to pay for abortion in other countries.

-- Fifty-five per cent of respondents believe medical professionals with moral objections should be allowed to opt out of performing or provide insurance coverage for abortion while 35 per cent said such workers should be legally required to participate.

-- An overwhelming majority of respondents, 83 per cent, felt that laws can protect both the mother and unborn child rather than choose to protect one and not the other.

-- Forty-two per cent of respondents said they believe life begins at conception, 10 per cent within the first three months of pregnancy, 9 per cent between three and six months, 19 per cent when the foetus is viable and can live outside the womb and 13 per cent when the child is born; 7 per cent were unsure.

Carvalho said the margin of error in the data was plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Thousands of people are expected for the 46th annual March for Life on 18 January in Washington.


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