Every year around the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Marist releases the results of its latest scientific, nationwide survey measuring Americans' views on abortion. Polling often finds conflicting views on the question, with voters leaning slightly more "pro-choice" than "pro-life," and relatively widespread anxiety about the prospect of overturning the Court-invented "right" to abortion (likely fueled by the misconception that reversing Roe would default to a status quo under which all abortion becomes illegal across the country, which is not the case).
On the other hand, substantial and enduring majorities support significant legal restrictions on abortion. In practice, a majority of Americans embrace an overall stance that can be broadly defined as 'pro-life,' both on the ethical/moral and legal components of the issue. A few highlights from the freshly-revealed numbers, commissioned by the Knights of Columbus and executed by a respected pollster with whom NBC News and NPR routinely collaborates:
(1) A slim 51 percent majority of respondents describe their abortion position as "pro-choice," with 44 percent responding "pro-life," and four percent unsure. This gap has narrowed considerably from last year's poll, in which "pro-choice" held a (56/39) advantage. The current spread reflected in the new poll closely matches this series' fairly consistent findings over the last five years.
(2) Just 12 percent of Americans support the Democratic Party's radical abortion platform, which effectively favors restriction-free abortion-on-demand (some left-wing state legislatures have gone even further in their extremism). Fewer than one-in-four respondents say abortion should be widely legal either throughout pregnancy, or at least through the first two trimesters.
(3) A lopsided majority -- 76 percent -- believe that legal abortion should be limited to the first trimester, permitted only in very rare circumstances (rape, incest, or to save the mother's life), or barred entirely. Support for these pro-life reforms includes 61 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of independents. And even if you excise the 'first trimester' option, fully 50 percent of Americans believe abortion should only be legally allowed in a handful of narrow circumstances, or not at all.
(4) As has been the case throughout this polling series (stretching back to 2012), a clear majority of voters say abortion is morally wrong, as opposed to morally acceptable. The latter option has consistently outpaced the latter one by roughly 15 to 25 percentage points. In addition, 52 percent say abortion "does more harm than good" in the long run, whereas 29 percent say it "improves a woman's life." Efforts to normalize abortion are failing. Most people understand the gravity of taking of an innocent human life.
(5) By a 30-point margin (63/33) US voters favor a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, when an unborn child has reached her sixth month in the womb. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a measure that offers such protections on the day of the March for Life. A similarly robust majority (60/36) opposes taxpayer dollars being directed to finance abortions.
I'd also note that while I don't have full access to this poll's internals yet (see update), last year's results showed no gender gap on these questions between men and women, which complicates one side's incessant "women's rights" framing. Another question asks whether healthcare providers (doctors, nurses and organizations) with "moral objections" to abortion should be legally required to participate in the practice. A double-digit majority (54/38) says these providers should not be compelled to violate their consciences. I also strongly suspect that if the poll question included verbiage about "opting out" of abortion services, that majority would swell. On the subject of conscience questions, a number of pro-life groups have submitted so-called amicus briefs ahead of a Supreme Court case challenging California's extreme law that requires anti-abortion counseling centers to offer abortion referrals. Oral arguments are expected next month. Read this sound analysis of why this case is so crucial:
Finally, it's always important to stipulate that the ethics and morality of abortion are not determined by public opinion. I would be on the pro-life end of the spectrum even if it were an exceedingly lonely position to hold. The reason I deliberately choose to highlight data sets like this one as often as possible, however, is to push back forcefully against the prevailing narrative of the pro-abortion Left and their reliable mainstream media allies: Namely, that pro-life views are marginal, weird, and held by fanatical pockets of people who don't respect women's rights. The data (not just in the Marist series, but across a swath of mainstream polling) definitively proves otherwise.
UPDATE - I've now glanced over the internals, and I'm struck again by the lack of a gender gap. On the specific question of when abortion should and should not be illegal, 51 percent of women choose one of the three post pro-life options, compared to 22 percent who choose the two most pro-choice options; those numbers among men are 51 and 25 percent, respectively. In total, 78 percent of American women favor significant new restrictions on abortion. Among Millennial voters, 68 percent say abortion should be limited to the first trimester or restricted even further. Among Latinos, that number is 77 percent.