Poll: Most support late-term abortion when high chance of Zika defects

Poll: Most support late-term abortion when high chance of Zika defects

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe a woman infected with the Zika virus should have the right to obtain a late-term abortion if the fetus is very likely to have a severe birth defect, according to a new poll.  

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Fifty-nine percent of people support access to abortion after 24 weeks if there is a “serious possibility” the fetus has microcephaly, a birth defect that causes malformation of the brain, according to a poll by STAT News and Harvard University.

The poll’s findings show a remarkable rise in support for late-term abortion among the general public when it comes to Zika and microcephaly.

That’s true even among Republicans. Forty-eight percent of Republicans said they support access to abortion after 24 weeks if the fetus is expected to have a birth defect — compared to 12 percent of Republicans who said they support such access after that timeframe in a separate STAT/Harvard poll that did not ask about Zika.

Both polls reveal the exceedingly complex public health and political challenges at the heart of the Zika response: Nearly 500 pregnant women in the U.S. and its territories have contracted Zika. More than a dozen women have given birth to babies with birth defects, and another six women have miscarried because of the virus.

The exponential rise of Zika in the U.S. — with 900 new cases over the past week — is likely to spur a larger national debate about abortion.

The percent of people who said they support access to late-term abortions for Zika-infected women is more than double the percent of people who supported overall late-term abortion access.

Only 23 percent of people support abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy when Zika is not involved, according to a separate poll also conducted by STAT News and Harvard this month.

The poll also showed that fewer than half of all Americans — a total of 44 percent — are aware that Congress has not funded a response to Zika.

Only 22 percent of people say it is a major public health threat, while another 28 percent believe it is a minor threat.