Poll: Swing-state voters support abortion access for Zika-infected women


The risks of the Zika virus to pregnant women are softening some Americans’ opposition to late-term abortion, potentially sending a ripple effect into crucial state races this year, according to a new poll. 

A total of 62 percent of voters living in 10 battleground states say they support abortions after 24 weeks if a doctor believes there is a “serious possibility” that a woman’s fetus could have severe birth defects from the Zika virus, according to polling by NARAL Pro-Choice America.

{mosads}Only 26 percent of people surveyed in the poll say they oppose abortion for Zika-infected women whose fetuses are deemed to be at risk of birth defects, according to the polling results, which were shared first with The Hill. 

The poll was conducted online last week among 1,000 likely voters.

“That is really, really stark, and it lets us know there are no qualms about where people stand on the access to legal abortion, especially when it comes to women with Zika,” Sasha Bruce, the group’s senior vice president for campaigns and strategy, said in an interview.

The poll included 1,000 voters from 10 states crucial to determining the Senate majority and control of the White House this fall: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. 

Support for abortion access was highest in Nevada, where 74 percent of people said they favored access, and Colorado and North Carolina, where that figure was 70 percent.

“People are able to put themselves in the shoes of the ‘what-ifs,’ even if they’re not in the unfortunate situation of being pregnant and having Zika. They can envision themselves having to make a choice,” Bruce said. 

Abortion access for Zika-infected women is threatening to become a major political issue in the U.S. this year.

More than 1,600 pregnant women in the U.S. and its territories have tested positive for Zika, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In most cases, doctors can’t tell whether a fetus will be born with birth defects until 24 weeks into pregnancy, when there are detailed ultrasounds of the brain. 

That poses a stark political problem for more than a dozen states that have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

The polling from NARAL, as well as previous polling by STAT News-Harvard last month, shows that people are more likely to support late-term abortion in the case of a woman being infected with Zika.

Some Republicans have already made clear that the Zika virus won’t change their stance on abortion. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who faces reelection this fall, said this summer that he did not support abortions for pregnant women infected with Zika even if the fetus would likely be born with microcephaly, a brain-damaging disorder.

“I understand a lot of people disagree with my view, but I believe that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws. And when you present it in the context of Zika or any prenatal condition, it’s a difficult question and a hard one,” Rubio told Politico. “But if I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life.”

Bruce said the poll shows that most people disagree with “the Marco Rubios of the world.” 

Tags Marco Rubio Zika virus
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