TUESDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- Despite recent moves by
some states to restrict access to abortion, more Americans now
support a woman's right to choose than they did two years ago, a
Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll finds.
Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of those polled in 2009
supported the idea that a woman should have access to abortion in
"all circumstances." But that number has risen to 36 percent in
2011 -- the highest proportion seen in Harris polls on the issue
At the same time, the percentage of Americans opposed to
abortion under any circumstances fell from 21 percent in 2009 to 17
percent this year.
The poll also found that almost half of U.S. adults (47 percent)
favored permitting abortion under "some [but not all]
circumstances," a slight dip from the 53 percent observed in
"Despite the current trend of fiscal conservatism in the United States stemming from the economic downturn, Americans overall remain socially moderate on abortion rights," said Jennifer Colamonico, senior vice president for healthcare research at Harris Interactive, which conducted the online survey of nearly 2,400 adults from July 6 to 8.
The poll results come against the backdrop of recent moves by
some states to restrict access to abortion. These include
legislation banning insurance coverage for abortion in the health
insurance exchanges created as part of last year's federal health
care reform; requirements that all women who are considering an
abortion get an ultrasound first; and cutting public funding for
Planned Parenthood. In some states, such as Indiana, Iowa, Kansas
and North Carolina, some of these moves have already been
implemented, according to published reports.
The public seems to be mixed on whether or not current laws on
abortion need changing. Thirty-four percent said there should be
laws put in place to make it more difficult for a woman to have an
abortion, but 28 percent now favor legal means to open up access to
abortion -- double the 14 percent seen in 2009. Thirty-eight
percent favored no change at all to current laws.
More Republicans favored laws to make abortion more difficult
(58 percent) than did Democrats (20 percent), and more Democrats
(38 percent) wanted to make access to abortion easier compared to
Republicans (18 percent).
However, most of the state initiatives that have garnered
attention recently received only lukewarm support in the poll. For
example, only one-third of respondents felt that eliminating public
funding for Planned Parenthood was a good idea, while 55 percent
felt the funding should be kept in place.
One state initiative that did get substantial approval was the
proposal that all women considering abortion get an ultrasound
first. Forty-seven percent of those polled supported the idea while
38 percent opposed it.
Most people (64 percent) also felt that abortion should not be
allowed after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, while 22 percent
felt it could be allowed after that date.
Overall, three-quarters of adults polled believed there should
be a cut-off on how late in a pregnancy an abortion can be
performed, compared to 13 percent who thought there should be no
Roe v. Wade ruled that the right to privacy protects abortion
rights through the first two trimesters of pregnancy, it is notable
that there is significant support for restricting abortion after 20
weeks," said Colamonico. "This shows that while support for
abortion rights and access remains strong, a majority of Americans
would tinker with the current law if it meant only minor changes to
More people supported allowing insurance coverage of abortion
than opposed it (44 percent versus 36 percent). Based on that
result, Colamonico believes that "denying coverage and access is
not something that [most] Americans support."
Despite clear divisions along partisan lines, poll responses on
the issue of abortion were relatively similar for males and
females, and responses did not vary much between different age
Those on the pro-choice side of the debate said the survey
reflects most Americans' stance on the issue.
"It is telling that this new poll shows an increase in the support for legal abortion at the same time we are going through the most aggressive legislative assaults on women's health and rights in a generation," said Tait Sye, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
"It's clear that a strong majority of Americans support legal abortion, oppose new laws restricting access to abortion, and oppose efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has been settled law for nearly 40 years," Sye said.
But Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action
League, said, "That one in three Americans is now ready to
eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation's
largest abortion chain, shows how effective the pro-life campaign
to defund Planned Parenthood has been.
"Abortion law in the United States is clearly out of step with the beliefs of most Americans," he added. "A majority say that abortion should not be allowed after the first 16 weeks of pregnancy, but not one state has enacted such a restriction. But I think we'll see that change soon."
Although the new poll's demographics are similar to the 2009
poll, the most recent study was done exclusively online, which can
have some implications for sensitive topics such as abortion.
The full poll can be found at
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