A poll out this week shows an overwhelming consensus among Americans who want substantial restrictions on a woman’s ability to abort her unborn child, including among those who call themselves pro-choice.
Only 12 percent of people polled said abortion should be “available to a woman any time during her pregnancy,” according to the poll of 1,700 Americans conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. The survey was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic charitable organization that gives upwards of $175 million each year to needy causes.
The poll shows that 81 percent of Americans favor some kind of restriction, including limits on abortion after the first three months, and a ban on public funding of abortion.
But what may surprise many is that these kind of restrictions are also favored by those calling themselves pro-choice.
Sixty-six percent of respondents calling themselves pro-choice say “abortion should be allowed, at most, in the first trimester, in cases of rape, incest of to save the life of the mother, or never permitted.”
Other surprising numbers include that 79 percent of women and 71 percent of abortion supporters believe “laws can protect both a mother and her unborn child” and that “a majority of Americans see abortion as both ultimately harmful to women and morally wrong.”
Thirty-three percent of pro-choicers actually believe abortion is “morally wrong.”
Even the much-prized Millennials are getting in the act. According to the poll, 76 percent of them favor major restrictions.
The reality of the abortion debate in America is that it is carried out in a cloud of confusion and the evocation of slogans that increasingly have little meaning. The poll shows many of those who call themselves pro-choice are actually quite pro-life. What’s more, most Americans don’t know what U.S. abortion laws say or do. Most think abortion is illegal after viability, somewhere around the 24th week of pregnancy. In fact, abortion is legal in the United States through all nine months of pregnancy.
Patrick Kelly, the head of public policy for the Knights of Columbus, said the labels of pro-life or pro-choice do not adequately explain how Americans really feel about abortion. He said such labels “are not accurate or helpful and are not representative of reality.” Polls generally show that the country is evenly split among those who refer to themselves as pro-life or pro-choice.
Kelly said as a press conference today that “there are other ways to look at this debate, an holistic look at the data that reveals real consensus and substantial agreement on limiting abortion.”
Barbara Carvallo, director of the Maris Poll, says these numbers have remained remarkably consistent over time. She says abortion is “a polarizing issue but not a polarized one.” She says the debate is contentious but when people are given a chance to explain their views more fully, a general consensus appears. Carvallo says the issue is also not ghettoized between men and women but that both sexes generally agree on “commonsense restrictions.”
The survey on abortion has been conducted annually since 2008 and support for restrictions have polled above 80 percent consistently since that time.
Kelly said the numbers have been successful in helping state lawmakers enact a wave of abortion restrictions in the past few years. Pro-abortion campaigners complain that the 200+ laws passed in the states in a past few years represent more than in the previous decade combined.
Surprisingly, the poll numbers from last year this show very little change meaning the blockbuster videos from the Center for Medical Progress showing Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating the sale of abortion baby-parts had no effect on abortion opinions in the United States.
Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse