Texas abortion vote mirrors Americans' divided view
Texas lawmakers have passed a restrictive abortion law that could sharply reduce the number of clinics. Over the years, the sharply divided public view has become more conservative.
Advocates on both sides of the contentious abortion debate tend to think they have most Americans â€“ if not God â€“ on their side. Itâ€™s been that way since before the US Supreme Court legalized abortion 40 years ago in Roe v. Wade.
The raucous vote in the Texas Senate Friday night came on a bill that will banÂ abortionsÂ after 20 weeks with very few exceptions, require doctors who performÂ abortionsÂ to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and require allÂ abortionsÂ to take place in surgical centers.
Abortion-rights advocates say it will reduce the number of abortion clinics in the state from 42 to just five, making it more difficult for women to get the medical procedure safely.
Where do Americans stand on such restrictions to a procedure many have come to see as routine?
The latest United Technologies/National JournalÂ Congressional Connection PollÂ shows that a plurality of Americans (48-44 percent) in fact supports aÂ ban on late abortions, defined here as later than 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
As put to those surveyed by phone, the question was:
â€śAsÂ youÂ mayÂ know,Â theÂ US HouseÂ of RepresentativesÂ recentlyÂ approvedÂ legislationÂ that would ban virtually all abortions nationwide after 20Â weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape andÂ incest that are reported to authorities. Would you support orÂ oppose such legislation?â€ť
As part of the question, and in an order that varied, respondents were told: â€śSupporters say the legislation is necessary because they believe a fetus can feelÂ pain at that point ofÂ the pregnancyâ€ť and â€śOpponents say it undermines the right toÂ abortion that the USÂ Supreme Court established in 1973.â€ť
Response by political party was diametrically opposite: 59 percent of Republicans favor the restriction, 59 percent of Democrats are opposed. Significantly, a majority of Independents (53 percent) joined Republicans favoring a strict limit on most abortions beyond 20 weeks.
â€śOverall, the survey suggests that the 20-week abortion measure fractures some of the modern Democratic coalition,â€ť writes National Journalâ€™s Shane Goldmacher. For example, women are more likely to favor the 20-week restriction than men (50-46 percent).
Gallup sees the trend moving from abortion rights to anti-abortion.
In 1996, according to Gallup, 56 percent of those surveyed considered themselves â€śpro-choiceâ€ť and 33 percent identified as â€śpro-life.â€ť As of this year, the balance had shifted to â€śpro-lifeâ€ť (48-45 percent).
A clear majority â€“ 61 percent â€“ say abortion should be legal during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. But that number plummets to 27 percent for the second trimester, Gallup found last December. Clear majorities favor a mandated 24-hour waiting period and parental consent for girls younger than 18.
Writing in the New York Times over the weekend, Washington bureau chiefÂ David Leonhardt notes that abortion differs from other hot-button social issues such as gun control, immigration, or same-sex marriage.
â€śAbortion is the relatively rare issue in which the clichĂ© is true: public opinion does actually rest about midway between the partiesâ€™ platforms,â€ť writes Mr. Leonhardt. â€śMost Americans â€¦ believe that women should have control over their bodies and also that an abortion is akin to a death. Where they struggle is in deciding when each principle deserves to take priority.â€ť