Poll: Majorities want abortion to remain legal but support some restrictions

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Nearly 7 in 10 Americans do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that established the right to abortion, according to a poll released Tuesday on the 47th anniversary of the decision. 

The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly five decades after Roe v. Wade was decided, the public is still divided on the politically contentious issue. 

While majorities don’t want the decision to be overturned, many still support restrictions on the procedure under certain circumstances. 

Nearly 60 percent said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 41 percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases. 

About 80 percent of those surveyed said abortions should be legal in cases where the patient’s life is endangered or in cases of rape or incest. Seventy-one percent said it should be legal if the fetus is expected to have serious birth defects, while 75 percent said it should be allowed if the fetus is not expected to survive. 

The poll also found majorities support state-level restrictions on abortion.

Fifty-seven percent support laws requiring doctors show ultrasound images to women seeking abortions, including 83 percent of the Republicans and 34 percent of the Democrats surveyed. The Supreme Court in December declined to hear a challenge to similar requirements in Kentucky, allowing the law to take effect. 

Nearly 7 in 10 support laws that require abortions only be performed by doctors who have have been granted the right to admit patients at hospitals, including 56 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans. 

The Supreme Court will hear a case in March centered on admitting privilege requirements in Louisiana, with the plaintiffs arguing the law will force all but one abortion clinic in the state to close. 

Meanwhile, 66 percent said they support laws that require women to wait 24 hours between meeting a health care provider and getting an abortion, including 50 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of Republicans. 

The majority of independents surveyed supported all three laws. 

But Americans are more divided on state laws that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected: 49 percent said they support it while 50 percent said they oppose it. Thirty-two percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans said they support those laws. 

Abortion rights activists argue that these laws, which have grown popular in state legislatures in recent years, are designed to make it harder for women to access abortion. 

Sixty-seven percent said they agreed with that sentiment, while 32 percent said the laws are intended to protect the health and safety of women. 

The poll was conducted Dec. 20-30 among 1,215 adults and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points for the full sample and 6 percentage points for women between the ages of 18 and 49. 


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