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Support for unrestricted abortion declines on ruling’s 25th anniversary

WASHINGTON (BP)–A day pro-lifers hoped would never
arrive, the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court
decision legalizing abortion, passed with some encouraging
news from the American public.
Polls taken in the days before the Jan. 22
commemoration showed support decreasing for the unrestricted
right to abortion instituted by the Roe v. Wade and Doe v.
Bolton companion opinions of 1973.
A Gallup poll taken for USA Today and CNN Jan. 16-18
showed only 23 per cent of Americans support legal abortion
in all circumstances. A survey performed for the Associated
Press the week before found similar results.
That is an 8 percent drop from a Gallup poll in
September 1995. From 1975 to ’95, Gallup surveys showed an
increase in support for abortion in all circumstances. The
latest Gallup poll showed 58 percent believe abortion should
be legal in some circumstances, while 17 percent support
making abortion unlawful in all circumstances.
A New York Times/CBS News survey also conducted in
early January revealed a drop-off in support for abortion
under certain circumstances. For example, the previous
Times/CBS poll on abortion in 1989 showed 37 percent of
Americans said a woman should be able to have an abortion if
her pregnancy would interrupt her career, while 56 percent
said she should not. In the 1998 survey, only 25 percent
said yes to such a scenario, while 70 percent said no.
A Baselice and Associates survey conducted in
mid-January for the U.S. Catholic Conference found the
number of Americans who identify themselves as pro-life has
increased. In 1998, 42 percent of Americans identified
themselves as “pro-life,” an increase from 39 percent in
1995. Those identifying themselves as “pro-choice” decreased
to 45 percent from 49 percent in ’95. The poll for the
Catholic Conference also showed 53 percent would ban
abortions, with the exception of those because of rape,
incest and endangerment to the mother’s life. This would
prohibit 97 to 99 percent of abortions, according to the
Catholic Conference. It is commonly reported 3 percent or
fewer of abortions are for these three reasons.
“Clearly, the vast majority of Americans oppose the
vast majority of abortions, both morally and legally,” said
Helen Alvare, spokesman for the Pro-life Secretariat of the
National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a written
statement. “Although the majority of Americans have opposed
most abortions for some time now, the ‘choice’ label has
held a superficial appeal. But recent events, including the
debate over partial-birth abortion and the relentless
opposition of abortion defenders to informed consent and
parental involvement with a minor’s abortion surgery, have
opened people’s eyes.”
Alvare was not the only pro-life leader who cited
discussion of partial-birth abortion as a reason for the
poll changes, but the New York Times/CBS News poll found a
majority of Americans had heard nothing or not much about
the partial-birth abortion debate.
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. The doctor 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
except to save the life of the mother, but President Clinton
twice has vetoed it. Congress plans to vote this year in a
second attempt to override the veto.
The Times/CBS poll also revealed the American public is
not well-informed on the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
“(M)any had to be told first what the decision entailed,”
The Times reported. When respondents were asked the status
of abortion law, nearly 45 percent either gave an incorrect
answer, said they did not follow the subject well enough to
respond or gave no answer.
Yet, the same poll showed support for legal abortion
collapsed from 61 percent in the first three month’s of
pregnancy to 15 percent in the second trimester and 7
percent in the final three months.
The Roe v. Wade opinion, combined with the Doe v.
Bolton ruling, had the practical effect of permitting a
woman to have an abortion for any reason throughout her
pregnancy. In the Doe case, the justices defined the
mother’s health in such a wide-ranging manner as to
encompass emotional factors, age and family as reasons for a
legal abortion.
Gallup polls for USA Today and CNN revealed the
greatest shifts are among liberals and women. Liberals
supporting abortion under all circumstances declined from 52
percent in 1994-95 to 37 percent in 1996-98. Among
Democratic women, support fell from 40 percent to 26. Among
liberal to moderate Republican women, it dropped from 40
percent to 25.
One thing did not change this year — tens of thousands
of pro-lifers marched in Washington on Jan. 22, as they have
every anniversary since the Roe and Doe decisions.
The women involved in both of those cases told the
crowd gathered for this year’s march they were wrong and
were opposed to abortion rights, according to a report in
The Washington Times.
Norma McCorvey, “Jane Roe” in the Roe v. Wade case,
said, “I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to
each and every one of you here today. I lied, and I’m sorry.
I’ve repented and asked Jesus into my heart,” The Times
McCorvey, who never had an abortion, made a public
profession of faith in Christ in 1995 and became pro-life in
the months that followed.
According to The Times, Sandra Cano, the plaintiff in
Doe v. Bolton, told the crowd, “I was poor, pregnant,
uneducated, seeking assistance and getting a divorce from a
man who was a convicted child molester. Instead of the help
I sought, a feminist attorney turned my circumstances into a
tool to achieve her agenda — legalizing abortion.
“For over 20 years now, my name has been synonymous
with abortion. I was against abortion then. I am against
abortion now. I never sought an abortion. I have never had
an abortion. Abortion is murder,” Cano said.
Meanwhile, Clinton affirmed abortion rights on the 25th
anniversary. In a transcript of video-taped remarks released
by the White House, the president said Roe v. Wade “has had
a major positive impact on the health and well-being of
American women and their families.
“I will continue to do everything I can to make sure
that every child in America is a wanted child, raised in a
loving, strong family. Ultimately, that idea is (what) the
anniversary of Roe v. Wade celebrates.”