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Poll: Growing number of people support abortion rights

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supremecourt(CNN) — On the 40th anniversary of the benchmark Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, new poll numbers indicate growing opposition to overturning the ruling, a move advocated by many in the anti-abortion movement.

The 1973 ruling affirmed the legality of a woman’s right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth Amendment. In a 7-2 decision, the ruling allowed for legal abortions during the entire pregnancy, but set up conditions to allow states to regulate abortion during the second and third trimesters.

According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 39% of Americans say they approve of the decision, while 18% say they disapprove and 41% say they don’t know enough about the ruling to have an opinion.

However, 70% say they would not like to see it overturned, with 57% of them saying they feel strongly about their opinion. The 70% mark is the highest number in support of keeping the law since the poll was first conducted in July 1989, when 58% felt the same way.

The change can be attributed to African Americans, Latinos and women without college degrees, three groups that increasingly oppose the overturning of the Supreme Court decision, according to NBC/WSJ pollsters.

On the other hand, 24% say they want to see the decision reversed, with 21% of them saying they have strong feelings about the issue. That number is down from 2005, when 30% said they wanted to do away with the law, and 31% in 1989.

Breaking it down by more detailed arguments, a plurality of Americans say there should be some exceptions to abortions. Thirty-five percent say the practice should be illegal except in the cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. Thirty-one percent, meanwhile, said it should always be legal and 23% said it should be legal most of the time.

A small minority–nine percent–oppose abortion fully, meaning they think it should be illegal without any exceptions. Two percent say they are unsure.

Political dialogue in the country also saw a surprising but highly-charged debate over abortion and contraception within the last year. Last winter kicked off with sharp disagreement over an Obama administration rule that initially called for religiously-affiliated institutions to include coverage for contraception in their health care plans. And two Senate races brought the topic to the national spotlight when Republican candidates made controversial statements about rape and abortion.

According to a recent CNN/ORC International poll, a majority of Americans–53%–say they approve of how President Barack Obama has handled the issue of abortion, while 35% say they disapprove. Taking a closer look at gender, men and women are basically close on the issue, the poll indicates.

In TV ads, the president’s re-election campaign attacked Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for saying he opposed Roe v. Wade. The president was also critical of Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, the two GOP Senate candidates who sparked uproar over their comments about rape and pregnancy.

While Akin said a woman’s body is capable of preventing pregnancy during the trauma of “legitimate rape,” Mourdock said he opposed abortion even after a rape, because the pregnancy was “something that God intended to happen.” Both apologized for their comments.

The president, however, said in an October interview with NBC’s Jay Leno that he doesn’t know “how these guys come up with these ideas.”

“This is exactly why you don’t want a bunch of politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women’s health care decisions,” Obama continued. “Women are capable of making these decisions in consultation with their partners, with their doctors, and for politicians to want to intrude in this stuff often times without any information is a huge problem.”

The NBC/WSJ survey was conducted by telephone with 1,000 adults nationwide from January 12 through January 15. The poll’s sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The CNN/ORC International Poll was conducted January 14 through January 15 with 814 adults via telephone. The poll’s sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.


  • Angie

    Wow. This is one extremely touchy subject for many. I remain against abortion because I do believe that God opens and closes the womb. I believe that every person is a creation with a purpose. What that purpose is however is not always revealed to us the way we would like but there are many people who are described as "the product of rape" who are glad their lives were not snuffed out by the vacuum and scissors cutting them up and sucking them out and into the trash. There are so many levels of discussion here. There are people who get abortions because they don't want to get caught being pregnant, they don't want the girl or boy, they changed their mind on being a parent. How is that okay??? There are plenty of preventatives that can be taken rather than wait and destroy a life. I could go on on this road but there is another that comes to mind. Why if the woman decides (without checking with the male) she doesn't want a baby can she discard it? What if the other person would want to raise their child? It is their child as well.

  • Angie

    [Continued[ . I say this because when the tables are turned and she does want the child and he doesn't he still has no say and has to be forced to support a child he never wanted. Seems a lot one sided…..just sayin'. I had two beautiful children. Both unplanned by me but planned by God I am sure. One is special needs and has touched many lives and brings both joy and frustration to many. My second one, though having no special needs also has touched many lives and brings both joy and frustration to many. Both wonderful life changing gifts from God of which I have no regrets. The other person chose not to be involved in both cases and that is fine. It is his loss and I will not force him to be there. You can't. It would never be genuine and will only give negatives to your life. All this being said, I know it won't be reversed because we as a nation hold tightly to our immorality, but I do think there is plenty of room for many needed revisions to avoid the abuse of its existence. Just my opinion.

  • Anna

    18,000 children starve to death every single day on this planet, every single day.
    Do you know how many children in your county are in the foster care system? How many older or hard to adopt children are in your state? Do you support tax-payer funded child-care, housing, food stamps for poor, single mothers who give birth? It is easy to talk about poor innocent "babies" when you don't have to financially provide for them. We need effective reproduction education and free and freely available contraception for all people on our planet. In case you haven't heard our planet is running low on fresh water, available crop land, and clean air. Over population is threatening all of life. Reproduction education that is abstinent-based does not work. If you want less abortions than
    educated people about contraception. Stop pushing your religion on other people.

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