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Abortion support declining among women, study shows

WASHINGTON (BP)–Support for abortion rights among American women is declining, according to a report released recently by a pro-choice organization.

The study by the Center for the Advancement of Women showed 51 percent of women now believe abortion should be legally prohibited in the overwhelming percentage of cases. The survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, found 17 percent believe there should be a total ban on abortion, while 34 percent say it should be outlawed, except in the cases of saving the mother’s life and pregnancy as a result of rape or incest. The figures in both categories are three percent increases over the results reported in 2001.

Overall, the survey found 68 percent believe there should be more restrictions on abortion than now exist. Of these, 17 percent said abortion should be available but “under stricter limits.” Thirty percent said it “should be generally available to those who want it.”

The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, combined with the companion Doe v. Bolton decision, both in 1973, had the effect of making abortion lawful for any reason a woman provided at any point in pregnancy.

The new study also found abortion is not as important to women. Of 12 issues listed in the survey, “keeping abortion legal” ranked 11th as a “top priority.” Only 41 percent of women ranked abortion as a “top priority.” That total is eight percent less than in 2001. At the top of the ranking for priority issues were “reducing domestic violence and sexual assault,” 92 percent, and “equal pay for equal work,” 90 percent.

The findings on abortion were part of some “alarming news” in the study, said Faye Wattleton, president of the Center for the Advancement of Women. Wattleton formerly was president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“There is significant and growing support for severe restrictions on abortion rights,” Wattleton said in a June 24 statement accompanying the report. “We are losing ground on many hard-won victories for women’s rights, which could ambush the status that women have achieved. In spite of these warning signs, few women are joining organizations or making financial contributions to women’s rights groups.”

Shannon Royce, consultant to the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “Obviously, we’re delighted. It shows we are making progress in winning back the hearts and minds of American women. We look forward to the day when Roe v. Wade is as much a part of the sad history of our nation as the Dred Scott decision.”

In 1857, the Supreme Court ruled Dred Scott, a slave from Missouri, was not a citizen but the property of his owner. The post-Civil War United States adopted the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution to abolish slavery and to give slaves their rights as citizens, respectively.

The survey’s question on support for abortion was phrased: “Which one of the following comes closest to your own view on abortion?”

The study was the result of two random surveys of more than 3,300 American women conducted over two years.

The report may be accessed at www.advancewomen.org by going to “progress & perils.”