Going Beyond Labels

New Marist Poll shows majority of Americans, including pro-choice supporters, want restrictions on abortions.

As the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches, a strong majority of Americans — including a majority of those who consider themselves pro-choice — support substantial abortion restrictions. The findings are detailed in a new Marist Poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus.

While Americans who identify as pro-life overwhelmingly support restrictions on abortion, pro-choice Americans also support such proposals — with majorities saying they favor several types of restrictions.

The survey found that more than 8 in 10 Americans (81 percent) would restrict abortion to — at most — the first three months of pregnancy. This includes 82 percent of women polled and nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of pro-choice supporters.

Additionally, 77 percent of Americans, including 79 percent of women and 71 percent of pro-choice supporters, say that laws can protect both a mother and her unborn child. Only about 1 in 5 (17 percent of Americans, 15 percent of women, 23 percent of pro-choice identifiers) disagree.

The poll also found most Americans see abortion as both ultimately harmful to women and morally wrong.

By a 25-point margin (55 to 30 percent), Americans say that abortion ultimately does a woman more harm than good. A similar proportion of women (56 percent to 31 percent) agree. More than 1 in 4 (27 percent) who identify as pro-choice also share this view.

Six in 10 Americans (60 percent), including 61 percent of women, say abortion is “morally wrong.” One-third of pro-choice Americans agree.

“Year in and year out since we began polling on this issue, the American people have understood that the law can protect mother and child alike and have expressed a strong consensus in favor of abortion restrictions,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “It is time for a new national conversation on abortion, one that begins with this consensus in favor of restrictions —a consensus that American women and men have already reached, and that includes a majority even of those who call themselves pro-choice.”

“When we look at the data we see why the waves of legislation at the state and federal level to limit abortion have been so successful in recent years. Contrary to the rhetoric and talking points that would have us believe that abortion restrictions are out of step with American opinion, the data tell us something quite different: Americans want this sort of common sense legislation that limits abortion, and they want it by wide margins,” Patrick Kelly, Knights of Columbus vice president for Public Policy said during a press conference at the National Press Club on the release of the poll. “The real debate over abortion is not an intractable one over labels that correspond to hardened positions. Rather, it is a broad and often overlooked consensus in favor of substantial restrictions on abortion.”

In addition, nearly 7 in 10 Americans (68 percent), including 69 percent of women, oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. This includes 51 percent of those who consider themselves pro-choice. Fewer than 3 in 10 Americans (29 percent) support it.

Similarly, more than 6 in 10 Americans (61 percent), including 60 percent of women, support laws that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except to save the life of the mother. The percentage was the same for pro-choice supporters (62 percent).

Fifty-one percent of Americans — including 50 percent of women — believe health care providers and organizations should have the right to opt out of providing abortion services if they have moral objections. About 4 in 10 (42 percent) of both groups disagree. Notably, one-third (34 percent) of those who identify as pro-choice would protect the right to opt out.

The survey of 1,686 adults was conducted Nov. 15-22, 2015, by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. Adults 18 years of age and older residing in the continental United States were interviewed in English and Spanish by telephone using live interviewers. Results for adults are statistically significant within ±2.4 percentage points. The error margin increases for cross-tabulations.

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