Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz
People pray in the upper level of the Verizon Center in Washington during a pro-life youth Mass in Washington Jan. 22. Thousands of young people gathered at the arena to rally and pray before participating in the annual March for Life.

Polls reveal declining support for abortion in U.S.

By NATE MADDEN, Catholic News Service | Published February 5, 2015

WASHINGTON (CNS)—A Jan. 21 report from the National Right to Life Committee and new poll results show that abortion is increasingly unpopular in the United States, but also that the number of abortions performed in the United States is at its lowest point since 1975.

The day after the State of the Union Address, the right-to-life organization held a news conference on its second annual “The State of Abortion in the United States” report.

The report showed that the number of abortions in the United States, currently at 1.06 million per year, is at its lowest point since 1975, when the number was 1.03 million and is also down from the 1.6 million high seen in 1990.

A new Knights of Columbus-Marist poll shows 84 percent of Americans want significant restrictions on abortion and would limit it to, at most, the first three months of pregnancy.

At the National Right to Life news conference, Carol Tobias, the organization’s president, was asked about President Barack Obama’s claim in the State of the Union address that the drop is a result of actions taken by his administration.

She said “the president is on record supporting abortion at any time, for any reason; he is not for any limit or restriction on abortion, but naturally, he is going to put that statistic in the best light he possibly can.”

Tobias believes that the decline in the abortion rate is rather the result of pro-life activism in public discourse and popular culture because “yes, the numbers are going down, but the rates and ratios are also going down, and that’s due to the pro-life movement keeping this issue alive in the public debate.”

“Pro-life education and legislation are helping to make an impact on our culture and in the lives of women with unborn children,” she continued, and as a result “many women have shown that they want their babies to live.”

Randall O’Bannon, National Right to Life’s director of education and research, added that “though the numbers on the whole are going down, there is one group that has remained steady and that group is Planned Parenthood.” The group, which “performs one in three abortions in the United States,” has repeatedly “turned opposition into fundraising fodder” to expand its “taxpayer-subsidized abortion empire.” “That,” argued O’Bannon, “is why they spend millions on elections.”

In its report for fiscal year 2013, Planned Parenthood said it had received $540.6 million provided by taxpayer-funded government health services grants including Title X family planning funds for low-income people.

Federal regulations require abortion services be kept separate from Title X-funded family planning services, but critics of Planned Parenthood say that receiving funding for nonabortion services frees up its resources for providing abortions.

The National Right to Life panel—composed of Tobias, O’Bannon, legislative director Douglas Johnson, director of state legislation Mary Spaulding Balch and executive director David O’Steen—also addressed claims made by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that were raised in opposition to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

The physicians’ group said that abortions done after the proposed 20-week abortion ban are “rare” and the results of “acute medical conditions.” According to Johnson, such assertions are “the same mythology that came from special interests during the partial-birth abortion debates” and “attempt(ing) to resurrect a baseless claim.”

House members had planned to put the measure up for a vote Jan. 22, the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe V. Wade decision legalizing abortion virtually on demand. But in a last-minute decision lawmakers decided to postpone action on it, indicating they would not have had enough votes for passage.

The bill would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks—when an unborn baby can feel pain—unless the life of the mother is in danger. There also is an exception for cases of rape, but it would require a woman to get the abortion after reporting the rape to law enforcement. That provision brought opposition from a group of women and other GOP leaders in the House.

Not only is the number of abortions declining in the United States, but it is publicly unpopular, according to a recent Knights of Columbus/Marist-poll.

A press release issued by the Knights said the poll showed that 84 percent of Americans “want significant restrictions on abortions” and that “60 percent of Americans say abortion is morally wrong.”

In addition, the poll found that 64 percent believe the abortion rate in the United States is higher than it should be, that 78 percent support parental notification, 68 percent oppose taxpayer funding and nearly 60 percent of Americans support legislation that would “permit medical professionals and organizations to refuse to provide abortions or refer patients for abortions,” which are also known as “conscience protection laws.”

“In light of the ongoing controversy over the HHS (Health and Human Services) contraception, sterilization and abortifacient mandate,” the release said, “it is notable that 70 percent of Americans also support religious liberty rights when religious values conflict with the law.”

It noted this was the same percentage of Americans who self-identify as “pro-choice.”

For the poll, 2,079 adults were surveyed by phone between Jan. 7 and Jan. 13. The Marist Poll conducted the survey, which was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

In addition, results of a Pew Research Center poll released Jan. 22 showed that 51 percent of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to 43 percent who say it should be illegal all or most of the time. But when asked about the morality of abortion only 15 percent of Americans view abortion as being “morally acceptable,” while 49 percent currently believe that it is morally wrong.

Sixty-four percent of Hispanics Catholics think abortion is morally wrong, compared to 53 percent of white Catholics, according to the Pew results.

The poll also showed a growing regional divide when it comes to views on life and abortion; the percentage difference between people in New England (75 percent) and the South (40 percent)—the two most disparate groups—who think it should be legal in all/most cases has nearly doubled since the mid-1990s.