A strong majority approves of the idea of a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion can be performed. But, in almost identical numbers, they oppose a measure that would allow motorists to buy "Choose Life" license plates, according to the Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
The results fit a pattern of opinions about abortion-related issues. Despite the heated rhetoric and seeming intransigence from activists on both sides, there appear to be few absolutes with the general public.
The poll found that 59 percent of respondents said they personally believe that abortion is morally wrong, but 66 percent agree that the decision on whether to have an abortion must be made by a woman for herself. Those figures have fluctuated only slightly in the past two decades.
"This just goes to show that the issue is not black or white," said Connie Perpich, public affairs director of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota, the largest provider of abortion services in Minnesota.
The poll found that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of those surveyed opposed the license plate bill, with 53 percent strongly opposing it.
The measure would allow motorists to pay an extra fee to buy plates with a crayon-like image of two children and the phrase "Choose Life." Proceeds from the extra fee would go toward programs that help women facing unplanned pregnancies consider placing their babies for adoption. Groups that counsel women about or perform abortions wouldn't be eligible to receive the proceeds.
"I'm with the governor on this one," said poll respondent Jeffrey Lee, a computer programmer from St. Cloud, referring to indications from Gov. Jesse Ventura that he would veto the bill. "You could spray-paint the slogan on the side of your car as far as I'm concerned, but it shouldn't be on a license plate."
About a third of those surveyed favored the bill, with 21 percent strongly favoring it.
The poll found that those who favored it were split about whether they would actually buy one of the plates. Forty-one percent of the respondents in that group said they would be likely to buy one, while 55 percent said they would be unlikely to do so.
On Wednesday, the House version of the bill was laid over for possible inclusion in an overall transportation funding bill. It also was added to a Department of Transportation housekeeping bill Wednesday to increase its chance of being approved. The Senate version passed one committee last week and is awaiting action in the Transportation Budget Division, possibly next week.
The poll found that older Minnesotans, DFLers, abortion-rights advocates and people who live in the seven-county metro area are most likely to oppose the bill.
The 24-hour waiting period bill, also called the "informed consent" bill, would require women seeking an abortion to be given information about abortion and alternatives, then wait 24 hours before having the procedure.
Most Minnesotans (61 percent) favor the measure, the poll found. About a third (32 percent) oppose it.
"I think maybe someone might make a hasty decision and not realize all that's implicated here, especially health-wise," said Fridley retiree Norma Spencer. "I really don't think it's the thing to do, to have an abortion, in the first place, but if they are determined, I think a 24-hour period is really a good thing because that will make them think it through."
The poll showed that those supporting the measure were most likely to be between 35 and 54, high school graduates or with some college, Republicans and living outside the seven-county metro area.
Abortion-rights advocates at the Capitol say the bill's provisions are an unnecessary burden for patients and physicians, and may limit access to abortions, particularly for rural women, who often must drive hours to get to an abortion clinic.
Supporters said the bill doesn't prohibit abortions but gives women the chance to receive more information.
Jackie Schwietz, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state's largest abortion opposition group, said she was heartened by the poll results.
"The public supports a woman's right to know. They support women getting information before having an abortion," she said. "If the governor is really being truthful when he says he wants to listen to the people of Minnesota, then he should sign this bill."
The bill is likely to pass on the House floor and is expected to find its way to the Senate floor for a vote, despite its failure in committee. But Ventura has pledged to veto it, just as he did a similar version last year.
Of those surveyed, 24 percent favor both bills and 25 percent oppose both. The remainder have mixed opinions.
Risa Olson, a Honeywell assembly worker from Champlin, reflected the mixed views. She doesn't see the necessity for the license plate but supports the idea of the waiting period.
"[Abortion] is good and bad," she said. "If you're 16 years old and you're pregnant and you don't want to carry it to full term, it should be your own choice. Some people should not be parents to begin with. But the 24-hour wait is a pretty good idea. There might be somebody in an emotional state and they want to change their mind and give them 24 hours to change it."
Olson added, though, that the decision to have an abortion should be made by the woman, not legislators.
"They're mostly men," she said. "What do they know?"
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