Seventy-six percent of Americans—including a majority of Democrats, Republicans, independents, and those who self-identify as pro-life and pro-choice—support "significant restrictions" on abortion, such as a ban after the first trimester.
The figures come from a new poll by Marist Poll, commissioned by the Knights of Columbus (KoC), released Wednesday. The poll captured how, in spite of the stark divide between pro-life and pro-choice Americans, there are many points of consensus on the issue of abortion.
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Fifty-one percent respondents identified as pro-choice, while 44 percent said they were pro-life. Four percent said they were "unsure." That divide has remained more or less constant over the ten years the KoC has been conducting its poll.
Within that self-identification there is some party variation: 25 percent of Democrats identify as pro-life, and 22 percent of Republicans identify as pro-choice. Independents — who are the plurality of Americans—are 55 percent pro-choice, 41 percent pro-life, and four percent unsure.
However, beyond issues of self-description, Americans agree on much. Marist asked about when abortion should be available: through the whole pregnancy, during the first six months, the first three months (as in many European countries), only in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, only in the case of the life of the mother, or under no circumstance. Notably, respondents were not given the ability to specify a specific month beyond three or six, which suggests that the data may not capture the full range of preferences.
Seventy-six percent selected one of the last four options, which the KoC defined as "significant restrictions on abortion." Twelve percent said they believe abortion should be available at any time, including 21 percent of both self-identified pro-choice people and self-identified Democrats.
Beyond the breakdown of when abortion should be permitted, Marist surveyed a number of questions pertaining to abortion. Most notably, 63 percent of Americans support a 20-week abortion ban such as the one that the House passed in October. Even a majority of Democrats supported the 20-week ban, rising to 56 percent of Democrats from 49 percent a year ago.
Americans are divided, although not precisely, on the morality of abortion. Independent of its legality, 56 percent consider abortion morally wrong, while 41 percent consider it morally acceptable. The moral consensus grows more pronounced in the case of abortion of a child with a genetic disorder: 64 percent consider it morally wrong, while just 26 percent consider it morally acceptable.
Americans also generally support conscience rights when it comes to abortion. Sixty percent oppose or strongly oppose using tax dollars to fund abortions, including 43 percent of self-identified Democrats and 56 percent of self-identified independents. Fifty-four percent of Americans think that doctors with moral objections should not be legally required to perform abortions, including 40 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents.
Andrew Walther, the vice President of the Knights of Columbus, said during a Wednesday press conference that the poll suggests America should be having a very different abortion debate than it is currently.
"What you see here is that the broad consensus means that the debate should be changing," Walther said. "We shouldn't be having these debates about, it's all or nothing, because when you look at this, that's twelve percent and eight percent of the population respectively think it's all or nothing. The vast majority, if we actually start this debate in terms of where the consensus is, things could get done that everybody would agree on."
"And most people that consider themselves on one side or the other of this debate, that 50-50 proposition with the labels, most of those people could actually be satisfied with a debate that began with the consensus," he said.