With no immediate hope of overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing abortion, Republicans around the country are increasingly pushing legislation to restrict the procedure, and Democrats say they'll make the GOP pay in coming elections.
From statehouses to Congress, Republicans have advanced a range of ideas: banning nearly all abortions beyond the 20th week after conception; making abortion clinics follow regulations for surgical care; mandating that clinic physicians have admitting privileges at local hospitals; requiring women to get ultrasounds before terminating a pregnancy.
But Democrats and abortion-rights advocates say Republicans already have overreached — the noticeable uptick in restrictions began with GOP gains in 2010 elections, before Gosnell's prosecution began — and that moderate voters have other priorities.
Polls on abortion have long suggested nuanced divisions in public opinion. In a May Gallup poll, 26 percent of Americans said the procedure always should be legal; 20 percent said outlaw it in all cases. Fifty-two percent, meanwhile, said it should legal under some circumstances, implying acceptance of legal restrictions. Yet fewer — 42 percent — feel it's morally defensible to end a pregnancy, while 49 percent said it's morally wrong.
One does not have to rely on implications from broad questions: there are survey data on the specific restrictions that lawmakers are considering. These restrictions enjoy wide support. As recent posts have indicated, polls by National Journal
and the Huffington Post
show that either plurality or majority of Americans support banning abortions after the 20th week. (A number of European countries have more stringent waiting periods
.) A 2011 Gallup poll asked about other restrictions
Note that women are slightly more
likely than men to support waiting periods, parental consent, informed consent, and mandatory ultrasound.
Granted, Republicans such as Todd Akin
and Richard Mourdock
have managed to botch the issue
, but the notion that it automatically helps Democrats is inconsistent with the public opinion data. In this case, pro-choice Democrats resemble Republicans who ignored the consensus of the 2012 polls and thought that Mitt Romney was sure to win.