Most Americans comfortable with 'significant abortion restrictions'

Published 22 January 2014  |  
(AP Photo/ Juan Antonio Labreche)

Some 84% of Americans would be happy with tighter legal restrictions on abortion than currently exist.

That is one of the findings in a poll of 2,001 adults carried out by Marist Poll on behalf of global Catholic organisation, Knights of Columbus.

Of those who supported stronger limits, 28% said abortion should only be allowed in the first three months of pregnancy.

A third said terminations should only be an option in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother's life.

Twelve per cent said women should be able to have an abortion only in order to save the mother's life, while 11% said they should not be allowed the procedure under any circumstances.

The findings have been released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Roe vs Wade, a landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court on 22 January 1973 declaring a constitutional right to abortion.

Carl Anderson, chief executive of Knights of Columbus said: "Four decades after Roe vs Wade, abortion remains at odds with the conscience and common sense of the American people."

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • 53% of Americans believe life begins at conception
  • 62% think abortion is morally wrong.
  • 80% support legal requirement for parental notification before a minor can obtain an abortion.
  • 79% support a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before having an abortion.
  • 76% oppose allowing abortions to be performed by non-doctors.
  • 71% support protecting freedom of religion above government laws.
  • 62% want more legal restrictions on abortion.
  • 58% support showing a woman an ultrasound image of her baby at least a day before an abortion.
  • 57% believe abortion does a woman more harm than good in the long run.
  • 55% want continued debate on the abortion issue (including 60% of adults aged 18 to 32)

The US Supreme Court has declined to review cases where so-called 'foetal pain limit' laws have been overturned by federal courts, as has happened in Arizona, Idaho, and Georgia. 

In these cases, certain groups arguing that the foetus can feel pain want to prohibit abortion after 20 weeks. The majority of scientists believe that the foetus is first able to feel pain in the 26th week.

"It would appear that the court is not ready or willing to deal with moving the viability line at this time," says John Robertson, chairman of the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Rights, speaking on NPR.

"The science is weak, and it would be a major change."

The Knights of Columbus believe the people are ahead of the courts when it comes to abortion.

"The American people understand that abortion is bad for everyone and even those who strongly support abortion want it reduced significantly, so it is time that our lawmakers and our courts reflected this reality," Anderson said.

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