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Pro-lifers make gains in survey; teenage abortion, birth rates fall


WASHINGTON (BP)–The pro-life movement continues to make gains in public opinion, a recent Gallup survey found.
In a poll for USA Today and CNN, Gallup found the number of American adults who identify themselves as “pro-life” has increased from 36 percent three years ago to 42 percent. Those who describe themselves as “pro-choice,” meanwhile, have fallen from a high of 56 percent to 48 percent in the same time span.
The survey also found support for a ban on partial-birth abortion has grown from 55 percent two years ago to 61 percent.
Partial-birth abortion is a procedure performed normally in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy in which a doctor delivers a baby feet first until only the head remains in the birth canal. He pierces the base of the baby’s skull with surgical scissors and suctions out the brain. Congress twice has passed a ban on the procedure with an exception to save the life of the mother, but President Clinton twice has vetoed it. While the House of Representatives both times has gained the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto, the Senate has fallen short twice.
Some anti-abortion advocates and other observers have credited the debate on partial-birth abortion for the improved polling figures for the pro-life cause.
In other results reported in USA Today May 5, the survey found:
— 71 percent of Americans support some restrictions or a total ban on abortion;
— 55 percent say abortion should be legal only in certain circumstances, such as rape, incest or to save the life of the mother;
— 16 percent favor a total ban on abortion;
— 27 percent believe abortion should be legal in all circumstances;
— In looking to the 2000 elections, 19 percent say a candidate’s views on abortion must be the same as theirs in order for him to receive their vote;
— 27 percent say abortion is not an important consideration in their vote;
— 51 percent say abortion is only one of many significant issues they consider in voting.
The Gallup poll followed by less than a week the release of studies showing declines in both the teenage abortion and birth rates.
The teen abortion rate dropped 31 percent in a 10-year period, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. In 1986, the rate was 42.3 abortions per 1,000 teens, but in 1996 it was 29.2. The abortion ratio, which is the proportion of teenage pregnancies resulting in abortion, declined 24 percent, falling from 45.7 abortions per 100 pregnancies in 1986 to 34.9 in 1996.
A report by the Department of Health and Human Services showed a decline in the teen birth rate of 16 percent from 1991 to 1997. The study found all 50 states recorded a decline in the birth rate for 15- to 19-year-olds.
HHS also reported the out-of-wedlock birth rate for unmarried women in 1997 fell to 44 births per 1,000 unmarried women 15 to 44 years of age. That is two percent lower than in 1996 and six percent lower than in 1994.
The country’s birth rate overall was at a record low in 1997 with 14.5 births per 1,000 in population, according to HHS.
The latest complete data for the report was from 1997.

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