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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.

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An abortion rights protester struggles with Texas state troopers in the Texas Senate gallery as the Senate debates an abortion bill, Friday, July 12, 2013, in Austin, Texas. The bill would require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, only allow abortions in surgical centers, dictate when abortion pills are taken and ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Eric Gay/AP

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Advocates on both sides of the contentious abortion debate tend to think they have most Americans – if not God – on their side. It’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 ban abortions after 20 weeks with very few exceptions, require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and require all abortions 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 Journal Congressional Connection Poll shows that a plurality of Americans (48-44 percent) in fact supports a ban on late abortions, defined here as later than 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

As put to those surveyed by phone, the question was:

“As you may know, the US House of Representatives recently approved legislation that would ban virtually all abortions nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape and incest that are reported to authorities. Would you support or oppose such legislation?”

As part of the question, and in an order that varied, respondents were told: “Supporters say the legislation is necessary because they believe a fetus can feel pain at that point of the pregnancy” and “Opponents say it undermines the right to abortion that the US Supreme Court established in 1973.”

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