As the anniversary of Roe v. Wade neared, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll
released Monday found that the majority of Americans, 54 percent, believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases – the first time the majority agreed in favor of the controversial practice.
In addition, seven in 10 respondents oppose Roe v. Wade being overturned, which is the highest percentage since the question was posed in 1989.
The findings come as abortion opponents and advocates alike marked the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Tuesday, some 40 years and 55 million abortions after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision was announced.
The 1973 landmark case determined women have a constitutional right to abortions under some circumstances, in which Jane Roe, et al, won the case against Henry Wade, district attorney of Dallas County at the time.
The majority in favor of abortions represents many conflicted respondents, Michael Dimock, the director of the Pew Research Center, told The Associated Press. Some respondents told pollsters they support the right to legal abortion while considering it morally wrong.
In addition, a 2011 survey of 3,000 adults by the Public Religion Research Institute found many who classified themselves as both "pro-life" and "pro-choice."
The ruling has prevented some states from banning abortions, and a series of subsequent court decisions have narrowed the scope of Roe v. Wade, leaving the country more divided than ever.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged in his Jan. 9 state of the state speech to further defend a woman's right to abortion even more firmly.
On the other side, in Mississippi, where many anti-abortion laws have been enacted in recent years, the lone remaining abortion clinic is on the verge of closing. Nearby hospitals won't grant obligatory admitting privileges to patients either, according to the AP.
"Unlike a lot of other issues in the culture wars, this is the one in which both sides really regard themselves as civil rights activists, trying to expand the frontiers of human freedom," Jon Shields, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, told the AP. "That's a recipe for permanent conflict."
Since Roe v. Wade, a majority of states imposed a waiting period for patients wishing to obtain an abortion, and three-quarters require parental involvement before a minor can obtain an abortion, according to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive health issues. Almost all states allow physicians to refuse to participate in abortions.
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