58% of Americans Say Abortion Should be Illegal in Most Circumstances

58% of Americans Say Abortion Should be Illegal in Most Circumstances March 6, 2014

Talk about burying the lead.

CNN did just about everything they could to hide the results of their own poll on American attitudes toward the legality of abortion.

The bottom line, which you have to read the entire article and then add it up for yourself to find, is that a full 58% of Americans think abortion should be illegal in most circumstances. Twenty percent of Americans think it should be illegal in all circumstances.

Here’s the pertinent paragraph, which can be found about half way down the article:

According to the poll, 27% say that abortion should be legal in all circumstances, 13% say it should be legal in most circumstances, 38% say that it should be legal in few circumstances, and 20% say abortion should always be illegal.

To read the entire article, go here.

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51 responses to “58% of Americans Say Abortion Should be Illegal in Most Circumstances”

  1. It really doesn’t matter who is opposed to legal abortion. Just like gay marriage, it is a right that doesn’t require popular support. Twenty percent think it should always be illegal. That is scary. Hopefully that twenty percent will never be in power in this country.

  2. Once again into the breach:

    Is this existence of these rights objective? Or is it only your opinion that they exist?

  3. It is a right guaranteed by the Roe v. Wade decision. That makes it a Constitutional right. That’s the right that matters. It doesn’t matter what any poll says.

  4. I would like to see rights tied to physical need. Food, clothing, shelter, medical care, these should be basic rights under the right to life.

    You have the right to PURSUE happiness- nobody guaranteed you the right to catch it.

  5. In American social parlance, you have to understand the subtleties of the nebulous term “most circumstances.” What many of these folks really mean is that abortion should be illegal in all of everyone else’s circumstances. Their own would be extenuating circumstances… There are of course people of every class who walk their talk, but you can bet that a lot of the folks agitating for total prohibition on abortion would find reason for a sudden trip to France if an unwanted pregnancy hit too close to home.

  6. The results of the CNN poll are consistent with what Gallup has been finding for the past 40 years.

    Despite all of the attention that the issue of abortion has gotten over the years, attitudes haven’t changed. Approximately 20% want abortion illegal under all circumstances, 25% want abortion legal in all circumstances, and the majority want abortion to be legal but restricted. Year to year, he actual percentages fluctuate a couple points, but then return to the average.


  7. Some of what you say is true. People are indeed changeable in their opinions as their own circumstance changes. Based on my long-time dealing with this issue, I’m guessing that “most cases” refers to exemptions for specific things such as to save the live of the mother, rape, incest. In the attitudes I’ve seen actually well over 80% of the public are in favor of restricting abortion to those three things. Those, however, are Oklahoma %s. I imagine it differs significantly in other locales, and as a national %.

  8. Put me in the catagory that it should be illegal in all circumstances, except if the life of the mother is at stake, and that is almost never. This might be the only good news I’ve seen in ages.

  9. What would be the justification for overturning a decision that declared a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion to be a constitutional right, which, under the 14th Amendment, can not be taken away by a state? Who would appeal the decision? On what basis?

    The strongest proponent for repeal of Roe v. Wade would be the Catholic Church. Is the USCCB going to file a lawsuit challenging the decision?

  10. A Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of an issue is as close as we can get to an objective reality. Beyond that, we get into the issue of objective morality and Natural Law. If these are defined by the Roman Catholic Church, then they are neither objective nor moral. In the United States, the government has more authority than the Catholic Church, even though the Catholic Church claims that its authority is from God. It’s important to keep that in mind and know it is the will of the people.

  11. Ah, I see. All the victims of the decision are dead, and thus have no standing for appeal! Brilliant!

    Except, they’re not (hate to use appeal to fundamentalist minister, but they’ve got and filmed the story):

    I think she has a right to sue for the loss of her twin. If not her birth mother, then the clinic that killed her twin.

  12. I think she has a right to sue for the loss of her twin. If not her birth mother, then the clinic that killed her twin.

    I don’t see how that would even be a case. Why should she sue the clinic. What they did was perfectly legal. And the mother? No way.

    If anything, the clinic screwed up by not aborting her. That is what they were hired to do. If she suffered any effects that impact her life now, maybe she can sue for that.

  13. The people today are immoral idiots who don’t know the difference between right and wrong.

    I think that is pretty much the theme of these blogs.

  14. “A Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of an issue is as close as we can get to an objective reality.”

    Then if Dredd Scott stood today, would you be arguing in favor of slavery?

  15. I still can’t see how anyone can mount a successful challenge to Roe v. Wade. The notion that a woman does not have a right to terminate her pregnancy is preposterous.

  16. It doesn’t matter that the Supreme Court does not have a perfect record. It still carries the authority of determining what is and what isn’t a constitutional right. It doesn’t matter that it botched the Dredd Scott case. People keep trying to use that to question its authority today.

  17. A woman’s right to have an abortion is not subject to public approval. It is subject to interpretation of the Constitution.

  18. Preposterous why? The supreme can’t overturn the “right” to an abortion because they said it was a right earlier? If the Supreme Court is the sole arbiter of the rights of Americans, what is to prevent them from changing their minds?

  19. If it is the final arbiter of constitutional rights in the USA, the Supreme Court cannot possibly have made a mistake, by definition. Who are you going to appeal to for their wrong decisions? God?

    And, you haven’t actually answered my question: If Dredd Scott STILL STOOD today (i.e. there was never a civil war), would you, right now, have any argument against it?

  20. More precisely, the Supreme Court is definitive on rights as a question of Law; politics and morality are separate questions, using less clear-cut foundations for the ordering relationships.

  21. “Except if the life of the mother is at stake” would in a literal sense be “legal only under certain circumstances”, and since the life of the mother is a reason for only a small minority of abortions, “only a few

    As such, your response would appear to suggest the likelihood that the poll numbers may overstate the actual opposition to abortion — in so far as some “all circumstances” respondents are phatic signals from people who in a literal semantic sense are part of the “few circumstances” category.

    (Contrariwise, there may be people who shift the other way.)

  22. Exact CNN polling wording, via PollingReport.com: “Do you think abortion should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?” … and if the response is “legal under only certain circumstances”, with the clarifying followup “Do you think abortion should be legal in most circumstances or only a few circumstances?

    That link incidentally gives results of a whole bunch of other polls using different wordings, which like the Gallup history indicate that (a) the exact breakdown on responses varies considerably depending on question wording, and (b) attitudes appear to show neither clear increasing nor decreasing trendline over time.

    Intriguingly, while there’s a lot of polling about whether people think abortion should be legal or not, there does not appear to be much polling about why they hold their particular positions.

  23. The GSS has asked for some years about various reasons; for rape, it’s a bit under that (about 75%). Support for abortion in the case of “serious defect” also tends above 70%. Other reasons they poll on (single mother, married but not wanting more kids, too poor to afford more children, or simply “any reason”) tend to run opposed, circa 3:2. Generally, regardless of reason, support tends a bit higher in the northeast and western US (census regions 1, 2, 8, and 9), and opposition highest in the south (6 and 7).

    However, I suspect what kenofken is referring to is the anecdotal frequency that abortion workers encounter abortion protesters seeking abortion services for themselves or for close family members. Contrariwise, while such anecdata are frequently repeated, there’s a clear risk of confirmation bias to draw undue attention to such anomalies. I’m not aware of any peer-reviewed research trying for empirical rigor on the question; and I expect there would be severe difficulties trying to get such a study past an IRB. Nohow, a quick whack at Google scholar turns up (doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2011.07.013), which seems to indicate the net rate of abortions from unwanted pregnancies among Evangelicals differs by no more than a factor of three than in the overall population; which suggests that the genuinely principled may (with luck) be a majority, but leavened by a depressingly large share of moral hypocrites.

  24. Many people believe Roe V Wade misinterpreted the constitution. Abortion isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. Viability isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. The ‘victim’ in Roe V Wade LIED to get sympathy for the cause (claimed she was raped when she wasn’t). Roe v Wade needs to be revisited.

  25. I have more experience with this anyone would want. I can tell you, again anecdotally, that there are plenty of moral hypocrites on every side of any question. As for abortion, I’ve seen people go both ways: Pro life people who seek abortion when it’s them or theirs, and pro choice people who take one look at that ultrasound and switch to pro life in an an instant.

    It is a useless bit of self-righteousness to try to base your arguments for or against a political position on what you think is someone else’ moral lapse.

  26. However, there seems some difference between the two examples you give. The vast majority of pro-lifers are nominally opposed to any prospective mother choosing to have an abortion; but most pro-choicers are still fine with any case where a prospective mother herself chooses to not have an abortion. Only one of the two cases seems to meet the criteria of hypocrisy.

  27. Why does it matter so much to you to label those who disagree with you as hypocrites? It in no way affects the veracity of either position.

  28. Well, pro-choice people seem to think Roe v Wade is poor legal reasoning, so that speaks for itself.


    Maybe the decision itself was poorly written or not made for the appropriate reasons. But most of Europe and many other nations allow abortion. Even if that particular decision were overturned, there would be another case eventually before the Supreme Court where a woman’s right to an abortion would be upheld.

  29. Someone would have to file a lawsuit stating that Roe v. Wade is unconstitutional because it violates the constitutional rights of those being aborted. Then it could be overturned. I think.

    Either that or new legislation would have to be passed by Congress and signed by the President. It would then be challenged in the courts and either upheld or struck down. Why are we even talking about this? Is the Christian Right going to get one of its own elected to the White House?

  30. Quite alright. No offense taken.

    Dredd Scott needed better laws (like the Emancipation Proclamation) not the correct interpretation of the Constitution (which he didn’t get either). The anti-abortion movement needs a law restricting abortions that will hold up to challenges as to its constitutionality.

  31. Question: I know it is in the Declaration of Independence and not the Constitution. But are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness considered to be our rights under the Constitution?

  32. In so far as I consider the label accurate, and value accuracy; in so far as I disvalue hypocrisy; and in so far as the vice of hypocrisy may be correlated to habituation of other vices — it seems to matter. Additionally, in so far as I value the ability to persuade, and Christianity disvalues hypocrisy (see Matthew 23:1-4), it’s effective for persuasion.

    Granted, my valuing of Truth et certera may for this discussion effectively be considered as based on an arbitrary selection of is-ought bridge; “Your Milage May Vary”.

    (I’d also note that I’d reserve the word “veracity” to the “is” claims; “merit” would seem a more precise term for the associated “ought” positions.)

  33. Why would you, an atheist, quote Scripture as a means to illustrate your beliefs?

    In so far as I understand your comment, that seems a bit … ummm … what’s the word I’m going for?

  34. While I am not a lawyer… Barbier v. Connolly, 113 U.S. 27 (1885) would appear to suggest that those are considered by the SCOTUS to be among those rights and privileges protected via the 14th — with a bit of “but”, as the State may use its police power to impair these rights to some degree to “promote the health, peace, morals, education, and good order of the people, and to legislate so as to increase the industries of the State, develop its resources, and add to its wealth and prosperity”. So, hypothetically, if your own personal pursuit of happiness tends to involve rape and ultraviolence, you may have a problem; Beethoven, not so much.

    More realistically, under US law the legal process of condemnation can still be used by the state to take your stuff and simply hand you the cash value of it out of the taxpayer’s coffers.

  35. You are correct. That’s why I support any state law restricting abortion (as long as it has an exception for if the life of the pregnant woman is truly endangered). Eventually one of those laws will be challenged all the way up to the Supreme Court to hopefully overturn Roe V Wade. SC decisions have been overturned or nullified before. It can happen again.

  36. It may not have been mentioned in the Constitution, but there were women who had them in those days and have had ways of terminating a pregnancy for centuries, rightly or wrongly. It wouldn’t have been “talked about” openly in those day.

  37. On the one hand, while most Atheists don’t consider the Bible the Word of God, they do at least consider it to be a Pack Of Fables — perhaps not as wise on average as Aesop’s collection, but still having some mundane merit in parts.

    On the other, in that particular case I was citing scripture to highlight what Christians believe, and how appealing to that belief may be an effective persuasive tactic, rather than to indicate it as a basis for my own belief.

  38. … so it’s a tactic?

    How will people who discuss issues with you know when you’re saying what you think and when you’re saying … whatever … as a “tactic”?

  39. I disagree about your assertion re “pro choice.” Most of the pro choice people I know are very pro abortion and abortion is their go to in almost every instance. Yes, that is anecdotal, but so is your assertion.

  40. The Texas abortion law is being challenged and the ruling will affect how the 14th Amendment will be applied in cases where a state law results in the restriction of access to safe, legal abortion by forcing available clinics to close. Right now, Christian Right Texas legislators are high fiving one another for taking abortion options away from some of the poorest women in the state. We will see if they are still giving out high fives when the courts rule on the constitutionality of their actions.

  41. I suspect the heart is a difference in how we’re defining “pro-abortion”. There’s a lot of people who consider abortion a better choice than facing any number of problems — rape, birth defects, financial inconvenience, what have you; many of whom not only would have such preference for themselves, but who would advocate that course if they encountered someone facing such choices. Contrariwise, I’ve never met any who considered abortion preferable for themselves or others to prior use of contraception — though the country is large enough there’s likely a few outliers of that sort.

    As to the demarcation point I had in mind, I’ve only ever encountered one who considered abortion to be good enough to advocate that more than 50% of all pregnancies should be ended by abortion — a medium scary borderline sociopath pseudo-libertarian with white supremacist leanings that I was acquainted with in college; big fan of the ZPG movement.

    But yes, it’s anecdata; and there doesn’t seem to be any empirical polling data easily turned up in Google, Google Scholar, or Google Books. There’s probably potential for an interesting research project, if someone could turn up funding.