Posted April 30, 2004
New poll shows growing shift toward pro-life position
By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The results of a new poll indicate increasing support for a pro-life position, according to representatives of several pro-life organizations.
The April 15-17 poll conducted by Zogby International showed that 56 percent of those responding said that abortion should never be legal or be legal only when the mother's life is in danger or in cases of rape and incest. Forty-two percent of the respondents said abortion should be legal for any reason for the first, first and second, or all three trimesters of pregnancy.
Asked if they considered themselves "pro-life" or "pro-choice," 49 percent said pro-life while 45 percent said pro-choice. By a 61-34 percent margin, poll respondents said abortion should not be permitted after the fetal heartbeat has begun.
Zogby interviewed 1,209 Americans by telephone. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 2.8 percent. It was made public April 23 in Washington.
By even greater margins:
-- Sixty-five percent agreed that abortion should not be permitted after fetal brainwaves are detected; 28 percent disagreed with that statement.
-- Seventy-four percent said tax dollars should not be used to pay for abortion, while 22 percent said they should.
-- Seventy-seven percent favored laws requiring that before they have an abortion women who are 20 or more weeks pregnant be given information about fetal pain caused by an abortion. Sixteen percent disagreed.
Carol Tobias, political director for the National Right to Life Committee, which commissioned the poll, said "only 13 percent of the public" supports the "extreme position" taken by leaders of the April 25 March for Women's Lives of "abortion on demand throughout pregnancy."
She made her comments at a Washington press conference where the poll results were released.
In the poll, 25 percent of those surveyed favored abortion for any reason for the first trimester; 4 percent approved of abortion for any reason during the first two trimesters; and 13 percent favored abortion at any time during pregnancy.
Poll results also indicate a greater pro-life stance among African-Americans, Hispanics and young people.
Twenty percent of those polled were ages 18-29. Of this group, 60 percent said abortion should never be legal or be legal only when the mother's life is in danger or in cases of rape and incest, as opposed to 39 percent who favored abortion for any reason during the first trimester, the first and second trimester, or all three trimesters.
Of all those surveyed, African-Americans accounted for 11 percent of respondents, and Hispanics made up 8 percent.
Of the African Americans, 62 percent said abortion should never be legal or be legal only when the mother's life is in danger or in cases of rape and incest; 38 percent favored abortion for any reason during the first trimester, the first and second trimester, or all three trimesters. Among Hispanic respondents, the margin was 78 percent to 21 percent.
"A poll released last year by UCLA showed that just a slim majority of 54 percent of college students support abortion, down from 67 percent a decade ago," said Cathy McLeod, mid-Atlantic regional coordinator for American Collegians for Life.
"The abortion lobby has failed to capture the hearts and minds of college women my age because they offer us one choice: abortion," she said.
National Right to Life Committee President Wanda Franz said the numbers are moving toward the pro-life position.
"These shifts in public opinion did not spontaneously occur out of nothing," she said. "To a large degree these shifts are the result of years of hard work of the right-to-life movement."
Cathy Cleaver Ruse, director of planning and information for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, talked about other numbers related to abortion that have not yet been quantified.
"After 31 years we know almost nothing about abortion's impact on women's health, on marriages, or on surviving siblings. We don't even know with certainty how many children have died," Ruse said. "Legalized abortion has been an unchecked, unstudied experiment."
She cited a 2003 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that "multiple abortions are now the norm." She said Maryland had the highest percentage of women who got more than one abortion. The study showed that 17 percent of women in that state who had obtained abortions were on "their fourth abortion for the year 2000 and the survey stopped counting at four," she said.
Ruse added, "The survey didn't ask why these abortions occurred," but she referred to an Alan Guttmacher Institute study from the late 1980s that suggested some reasons.
"The two overarching reasons that women have abortions are a lack of financial and emotional support," she said. "In other words, women abort their babies because they need practical help and emotional support, and no one will give it to them."