A new poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus shows only limited support for permissive abortion laws among all Americans and among Catholics specifically. Even those who label themselves as pro-choice often favor more restrictions on abortion than are currently allowed under Roe v. Wade, the poll finds.
The poll asked survey respondents to state which of six statements came closest to describing their opinion of abortion and to describe themselves as either “pro-life” or “pro-choice.”
About 50 percent of survey respondents described themselves as “pro-choice,” while 44 percent considered themselves to be “pro-life.”
A plurality of about 32 percent of respondents said that abortion should only be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Close to 24 percent held that abortion should be legal only in the first three months of pregnancy, while 15 percent said abortion should be allowed only to save the life of the mother and 13 percent agreed that abortion should never be permitted under any circumstance.
Eight percent said that abortion should be allowed only during the first six months of pregnancy, while only another eight percent said that abortion should be available to a woman any time during her entire pregnancy.
Only 15 percent of self-described “pro-choice” respondents favored unrestricted abortion throughout a pregnancy. About 43 percent of pro-choice respondents said abortion should be restricted to the first trimester and 23 percent would restrict abortion only to cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life was in danger.
Among Catholics specifically, 48 percent overall described themselves as pro-life, with 59 percent of practicing Catholics and 29 percent of non-practicing Catholics doing so. Close to 47 percent of Catholics described themselves as pro-choice, with 36 percent of practicing Catholics and 65 percent of non-practicing Catholics claiming the label.
Nearly 90 percent of Catholics wanted to restrict abortion to no more than the first trimester of pregnancy, while 72 percent either would limit legalized abortion to cases of rape or incest and to save the life of the mother, would permit it only to save the life of the mother, or do not believe abortion should ever be permitted.
About 35 percent of Catholics said abortion should be allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. This included 37 percent of practicing Catholics and 30 percent of non-practicing Catholics.
The next largest Catholic cohort, 26 percent, said abortion should be allowed in the first three months of a pregnancy, with 20 percent of practicing Catholics and 36 percent of non-practicing Catholics supporting this position.
Seventeen percent of Catholics said abortion should never be permitted, a position supported by 21 percent of practicing Catholics and 11 percent of non-practicing Catholics.
Six percent of Catholics supported unrestricted abortion throughout pregnancy, including five percent of practicing Catholics and eight percent of non-practicing ones. Another five percent of all Catholics favored legalized abortion only during the first six months of pregnancy, with three percent of practicing Catholics and nine percent of non-practicing Catholics taking such a stand.
The survey, whose results were reported in the document “Moral Issues and Catholic Values,” was conducted for the Knights of Columbus by the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion between September 24 and October 3, 2008. Surveying 1,733 Americans among whom 813 were Catholics, it claims a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent for all Americans and 3.5 percent for Catholics specifically.
Full details of the poll results can be found at www.kofc.org.