What do most Americans think about abortion?

The answer, contained in a new Gallup Poll described as the largest…and most demographically comprehensive ever taken on the topic,” will surprise many.

A majority of Americans, including those who consider themselves ‘pro-choice,’ disapprove of abortion in most of the circumstances in which abortion is allowed under federal law, the polling organization found.

The confusion over population perceptions and actual views of abortion, the survey found, results from widespread misunderstanding.  Fully nine out of ten respondents were unable to describe accurately the impact of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of 1973.

Forty-two per cent of those surveyed wrongly supposed that Roe authorized abortions only in the first trimester of pregnancy, and 38 per cent of those (16 per cent of all respondents) believed that abortion was legal only if the mother’s life or health were endangered.  When informed of the allowable conditions under which abortions can be performed legally, respondents were overwhelmingly opposed to the status quo.

The poll’s findings, as reported in the Washington weekly Human Events are eye-opening:

  • By a margin of 66 to 29 per cent, respondents said they disapproved of abortions for financial reasons, “even in the case of a low-income woman for whom another child would create a heavy financial burden.
  • 68 per cent opposed abortion for a woman “abandoned by her partner.”
  • 66 per cent opposed abortion in cases where having a baby would cause a teenager to drop out of school.
  • 69 per cent said abortions for teenagers should be illegal in the absence of parental consent.
  • 77 per cent disapproved of abortion in cases where “the pregnancy is unplanned and would interrupt a professional woman’s career.”
  • 88 per cent opposed abortion “as a repeated means of birth control.”
  • 91 per cent disapproved of abortions performed for purposes of sex selection.

Even more significant, the Gallup survey found that 75 per cent of all Americans said that abortion involves the taking of a human life and that, despite propaganda to the contrary, women are just as likely as men to hold anti-abortion views.  What is more, the poll’s findings showed that young and old, Democrats and Republicans, did not hold appreciably different positions on the subject.

These conclusions are consistent with two 1989 surveys of American attitudes, one taken by the New York Times, the other by the Alan Guttmacher Institute.  Those surveys indicated that the more Americans knew about abortion and the toll it took on developing life, the more they were opposed to it.

Besides supplying comprehensive data state law-makers and national politicians interested in protecting the lives of constituents, the polls seem to affirm that Americans continue to value the most basic of human rights.  Given ‘a choice,’ most would choose life.