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New Marist poll shows Americans strongly support abortion restrictions

Participants in Chicago's March for Life 2015 (CNS)

A few days before the annual March for Life, a new national poll indicated shifting public attitudes, crossing party labels, in favor of increased restrictions on abortion.

“When you ask Americans what they think of abortion … you get very, very strong numbers in favor of restrictions,” said Andrew Walther, vice president of communications of the Knights of Columbus, during a January 23 news conference live streamed to reporters.

The Marist survey of 2,729 adults was conducted in December and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. It contains breakdowns by political affiliations and ethnicity but not religious beliefs, so there was no information on how many respondents were Catholics. 52 per cent of the respondents indicated that they thought of themselves as “pro-choice,” while 42 per cent self-identified as pro-life. But when the questions became more detailed on abortion policies, the numbers shifted.

Across political and ethnic lines, overwhelming majorities of respondents indicated they would like “significant restrictions.” That included 91 per cent of those who called themselves supporters of President Donald Trump, and 55 per cent of those who identified themselves as Hillary Clinton supporters. The poll further showed that 79 per cent of both African-American and Latino respondents favoured significant restrictions.

Further, 74 per cent said they wanted the Supreme Court to rule on these restrictions, indicating support for overturning the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalised abortion virtually on demand. 83 per cent said abortion should be allowed only to save the life of the mother, while 77 per cent said it should not be permitted under any circumstance.

In line with Trump’s new executive order reinstating what’s called the Mexico City Policy, which bans tax dollars from funding groups that promote or perform abortion overseas, 83 per cent opposed that use of tax money in other countries, and 62 per cent opposed the use of tax money generally.

Fully half the respondents thought abortion “has a negative, long-term impact on a woman’s life,” while 19 per cent were unsure. 59 per cent believe that abortion limits were either “important” or an “immediate priority, and the same percentage agreed when asked if they thought abortion was “morally wrong.”

The same level of support was expressed for an abortion ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and 60 per cent believed that medical professionals with moral objections should not be legally required to provide abortion services.

The 44th annual March for Life, which draws thousands to Washington to commemorate the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe decision, will be held January 27.

The survey was conducted December 12-19 by the Marist Poll. Adults age 18 and older living in the continental US were in interviewed live by telephone in English or Spanish. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.9 percentage points.