Share This Page

Poll: Most in U.S. favor restricting abortion at 20 weeks

| Thursday, July 25, 2013, 6:36 p.m.

WASHINGTON — By a margin of 56 to 27 percent, more Americans say they would prefer to impose limits on abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than the 24-week mark established under law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

About 10 percent surveyed in the poll volunteered they would prefer to outlaw abortion in the United States altogether or limit it earlier than 20 weeks after fertilization.

At the same time, however, 54 percent say they oppose state laws that make it more difficult for abortion clinics to operate, compared to 45 percent who support such legislation.

The findings were released as lawmakers on Capitol Hill and in states across the country are pushing to ban abortions earlier and impose new requirements that make it harder for abortion clinics to operate.

Under the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, abortions can be performed until the point when an individual doctor determines a fetus' viability, which is generally defined as up to 24 weeks of gestation.

After that point, the government can prohibit the procedure so long as it provides safeguards for the mother's health and well-being.

The poll suggests that significant support exists for banning abortions earlier in a woman's pregnancy, but far less for instituting onerous restrictions for abortion providers.

Bob Millsaps, an 80-year-old retiree in Bristol, Va., said he ideally would like to ban abortion except in cases of rape and incest, and prefers a 20-week ban to one starting at 24 weeks. But he added he opposes requirements, including one in effect in Virginia, requiring abortion clinic operators to “upgrade the clinics to hospital standards. That's forcing them to not having any abortions at all.”

More broadly, overall support for legal abortion remains stable, with 55 percent saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 41 percent say it should be illegal in most or all cases. That finding is similar to a 2012 Post-ABC poll and surveys in recent years.

The poll was conducted July 18-21 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. Results from the full poll have an error margin of 3.5 percentage points.

By more than a 2 to 1 margin — 66 to 30 percent — Americans say they prefer that abortion laws be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution, rather than a state-by-state approach. This applies to both hard-core abortion rights supporters and opponents: 73 percent of those who say abortion should always be legal want a national rule, as do 72 percent of those who say it should be illegal in all cases.

But on a practical level, the ground rules for abortion are being rewritten on the state level, where 50 new restrictions have been adopted since January, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.