A new survey suggests that “large majorities” of Americans favor several types of abortion restrictions, including waiting periods, parental notification and informed consent laws. However, they are less likely to support a ban on federal funds for abortion providers or opt-out laws for pro-life pharmacists and health providers.
“We have known for some time that the American public is supportive of restrictions and understand that those restrictions are necessary to protect women and the unborn,” said Mailee Smith, staff counsel for Americans United for Life.
It was “affirming and encouraging” that Americans support some of the restrictions, she added.
A July Gallup survey of 1,020 U.S. adults asked their opinions of several abortion laws.
Eighty-seven percent favored requiring doctors to inform patients about possible risks of abortion before performing the procedure, while 71 percent favored requiring parental consent for women under 18 for any abortion. Sixty-nine percent favored a 24-hour waiting period before a woman has an abortion, while 64 percent favored a ban on “partial birth abortion,” except to save the life of the mother.
However, only 50 percent favored requiring that a woman be shown an ultrasound image of her unborn child at least 24 hours before an abortion. Fifty-one percent opposed a law allowing pharmacists and health providers to decline providing medicine or surgical procedures that result in abortion, while 57 percent opposed a prohibition on federal funds for health clinics that provide abortion services.
Smith said it was “a little discouraging” that a majority of respondents do not support conscience protections and bans on federal funding for abortion providers. She suggested more education efforts are needed in those areas.
“There is a lot of mistaken understanding and misinformation about the so-called abortion rights in political and judicial circles. There is a misunderstanding of how harmful abortion is to the woman,” she continued.
“There tends to be a general belief that women need abortion in order to advance a career or have the type of life that they want to have, and that pregnancy takes away from that.”
“Study after study after study has demonstrated that not only the physical risks of having an abortion, but the psychological risks, and the consequences involved,” she said, citing the “substantial risk” of pre-term birth in a subsequent pregnancy of a woman who has had an abortion.
There are now more abortion restrictions than there were in 1973 when the Supreme Court imposed permissive abortion laws nationwide, Smith noted.
“Contrary to the time when Roe v. Wade was decided, now 31 states now have informed consent laws in place. Thirty-seven states have parental involvement laws in place, such as parental consent or parental notification,” she said. “Thirty-eight states have fetal homicide laws, which punish as a crime the homicide of an unborn child, separate from the abortion issue.”
“As states enact these laws, the rate of abortion goes down in these states,” Smith added, noting that the abortion rate declines between 13 to 25 percent in a state with parental involvement restrictions.
“We see that these restrictions are having a very positive effect on the number of women who are getting the proper facts before abortion and choosing to carry their children to term.”
Gallup found a significant partisan difference in respondents. Republicans were much more likely to favor restrictions on abortion, while independents were somewhat less likely to favor such laws. Democrats were most opposed to abortion restrictions.
“The partisan breakdown would not be unexpected,” Smith said.
However, she noted that some restrictions, even the partial-birth abortion ban, were supported by a majority of Democrats.
“If the general public, if the politicians, if Republicans and Democrats and independents, understood how harmful abortion is for women, there would be more support for abortion restrictions.”
Only 35 percent of respondents to a June Gallup survey said abortion should be illegal in the first three months of pregnancy, a figure which rose to 71 percent in the second three months of pregnancy and to 86 percent in the last three months, a June Gallup survey said.