States Taking Steps to Restrict Abortions as Opinions Shift

Friday, 14 Mar 2014 03:54 PM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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West Virginia lawmakers recently passed a bill that would ban most abortions 20 weeks after conception, the latest example of a state Legislature passing measures restricting the procedure.

The trend comes as polls show more Americans approve of such restrictive laws.

State legislatures have passed more pro-life laws since 2011 than during the entire previous decade, according to a report released in January by the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute.

From 2011 to 2013, the legislatures approved 205 restrictions on abortion, in contrast to the 189 provisions enacted during the previous decade.

Thirteen states have passed 20-week bans, although four have been blocked in court or through an attorney general's order. All but two of the laws have been passed since 2010. Similar bills are in various stages of legislative progress in South Carolina, Florida, and Mississippi.

Michael New, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, noted the progress the pro-life movement has made in advancing measures on the state level and in electing more pro-life legislators.

"In many states the result of the election of pro-life legislators has produced a takeover of legislatures and the end to the stranglehold [pro-choice supporters] have had, and has opened the door to greater restrictions on abortion," New told Newsmax.

New said technology may be "quietly having an impact" on public opinion in favor of tighter restrictions on certain abortion procedures. The views of younger voters are being shaped in part by technology, primarily ultrasounds, he said.

"I think ultrasounds are playing a role to some degree, particularly now that many young people are seeing their brothers and sisters for the first time from a photo in utero."

Polling data indicates more Americans favor limits on some abortion procedures, especially those which take place as a fetus gets closer to viability, even as the nation remains evenly split on whether to overturn Roe v. Wade.

A 2013 Gallup survey found roughly six in 10 saying abortion should be legal in the first three months of pregnancy, but support dropped to 27 percent for the procedure in the second trimester, and down to 14 percent in the third.

A 2013 Pew poll found that only 15 percent of the public believes abortion is a morally acceptable practice.

"Many Americans may personally oppose abortion, but they also believe that abortion should be a personal choice between a woman and her doctor. Public opinion on nearly every question about abortion shows people remain deeply conflicted themselves about the issue and most see no reason to overturn Roe," Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told Newsmax.

"Majorities, however, support first trimester abortions, but they also have always supported restrictions on second- and third-trimester abortions," Bowman said.

Surveys are also reflecting a generational shift, with more young people expressing pro-life views.

"In 2013, there were three separate national polls that indicated a clear plurality of Americans supporting banning abortion after 20 weeks, and that includes young adults and women. They actually were more likely to support a ban than men," New said.

"I think there is good reason to believe that pro-life sentiment has been increasing in recent years. During the mid-1990s, only 35 percent identified themselves as pro-life. However, in 2009, for the first time, those who said they were pro-life out-polled pro-choice," New said.

Lydia Saad of Gallup said data indicated young adults were slightly more likely than other age groups to say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

"As a result, 18-to-29-year-olds are now roughly tied with seniors as the most likely of all age groups to hold this position on abortion," Saad wrote in an analysis of polling data. "This is a sharp change from the late 1970s, when seniors were substantially more likely than younger age groups to want abortion to be illegal."


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