Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Abortion Poll & Law

(via Drudge)

ABC and the Washington Post carried out an interesting poll recently. Normally, I like looking at polls, but pay little attention to them, as they focus on short-term feelings. Polls that ask about general opinions, however, tend to be more accurate, and this poll was far more interesting.

The poll was about Justice Samuel Alito, and asked whether people think he should or should not be confirmed. A decent majority, 54% - 28%, felt that he should be confirmed. What was more interesting, however, was what people thought about abortion.

Roe v. Wade, which I previously discussed here and here, is obviously the most discussed subject. Here's the chart of those polled:

Uphold Roe Overturn Roe
No Religion
Protestants: Evangelical
Protestants: Non-Evangelical
Weekly Churchgoer
Monthly Churchgoer
Less Often/Never

Nothing particularly surprising in those results. What is far more interesting, though not surprising, is what followed:

Roe and Restrictions

Although 61 percent would want Alito to vote to uphold Roe, opinion on restricting its scope is more fragmented. While 45 percent of Americans want the court to leave access to abortion as is, about as many, 42 percent, want it harder for women to get abortions. Far fewer, 11 percent, want abortions easier to obtain.

Attitudes on restricting access to abortion are essentially identical among women and men, but again vary sharply by political affiliation, ideology and religiosity.

It seems that more people would like abortion to be much more difficult to do, but won't overturn Roe v. Wade because they feel that it's better to have it legal for those who need it than completely illegal (my personal stance). The next part was more specific:

Basic Measure

In the most basic measure of attitudes on abortion, 56 percent say it should be legal all or most of the time, while 41 percent say it should be all or mostly illegal. Those numbers in this survey precisely match the long-term average in 18 polls across the last decade.

Few Americans take either extreme position in the abortion debate —17 percent say abortion should be legal in all cases, which is five points below the 10-year average, and 13 percent say it should be illegal in all cases, which about matches the average.

That leaves two-thirds in the middle, saying abortion should be legal in some cases. The debate is about what those cases should be — 40 percent say it should be legal in most cases, 27 percent say illegal in most cases.

It is obvious what the views are of those who want it to be completely legal, illegal, or mostly illegal. Those who think it should be mostly illegal likely feel it should be permitted in situations where the mother's safety is threatened, rape, incest, and perhaps a few other cases (and perhaps not all of those). Those who think it should be mostly legal, however, are hard to pin down: My assumption would be that they feel it should be legal, but they are against late-term abortions, such as those carried out after a certain point (perhaps 20 weeks, perhaps even earlier).

The reason most people are reluctant to overturn Roe v. Wade is they are afraid it will result in all abortions being illegal. I don't think this is the case: It's a poorly written law decision, and should be overturned. In its place, laws about about abortion should be written, specifically stating that abortions after a certain point should be illegal, except for certain, specific, exceptions. Anytime those exceptions are used, and there is reason to think the law may have been abused, it should be reviewed to ensure that it is not being abused, with a substantial burden of proof necessary (perhaps beyond a reasonable doubt) to convict. This is to allow those carrying out these necessary abortions to worry about the mother's safety first and not being put in jail.

I imagine that most Americans would be very satisfied with such a law, as it will limit many unnecessary and immoral abortions but protect them when necessary. The cases that are "in the middle", so to speak, can be debated and perhaps voted upon - but the extremes, at the least, must be covered. Here's a case in point, from James Taranto's Best of the Web last week: (I had wanted to discuss this, but my post got erased.) [Link: Scroll down halfway]
Late-term abortion is serious, hard-core. At 24 weeks, a fetus is at the same stage of development as those gruesome images shown on pro-lifers' protest placards. "The last woman I hosted showed me her sonogram," says Jennifer, a 26-year-old host who lives in Carroll Gardens. "Then she pointed out that the fetus was a boy. God! I didn't know what to say.
Neither do I.

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  1. FWIW, I used to look at things like poll numbers for abortion at the Gallup site when a lot more of it was accessible for free.
    Generally first trimester abortion was favored being legal by a majority of those surveyed. Second trimester abortion was opposed by (I think) about 2/3 of those polled and third trimester abortions - not even "partial birth" - were opposed by over 80 %or maybe even 90 % of those polled. Of course "A woman's right to choose" has become enshrined as catechism for much of the Left in this country so we don't hear much about these polls.
    If Roe were overturned I expect that the states would probably mostly place restrictions on abortions after the first trimester reflecting the national consensus.

  2. Exactly - which is why it should be overturned! Thanks, David.

  3. I love when right wingers who are so against so-called "Big Government" are in full support of the government putting itself inside people's bodies and bedrooms.

    And while I would always rather see a baby born than not, I don't think there should be any laws restricting womens' rights.

  4. Blueenclave - Noted.

    Robbie - There's a huge difference. It depends very much on whether you view abortion as moral or murder, and at what point that changes. It's not a "women's rights" question.

  5. I think it's absolutely a "women's rights" question. It's the government legislating what she can and cannot do with her own body.

  6. Not any more than they legislate that I can't shoot someone. Is that a limitation of my rights? No - it's a protection of others' rights.

    (Or, if you'd prefer, it is a limitation of my rights, but within reason - and this is a women's rights question, but the demands are reasonable.)