03/07/06 FOX News Poll: Majority Opposes South Dakota Abortion Law

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A majority of Americans say they would oppose having a law in their state like the new South Dakota legislation that bans abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother.

According to the latest FOX News poll, most Americans think abortion should be legal if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest — exceptions not included in the South Dakota law.

The poll finds that 59 percent of Americans would oppose the South Dakota law in the state where they live and 35 percent would support it. Gov. Mike Rounds signed the new abortion bill earlier this week, and Planned Parenthood says it will fight the law in court.

The South Dakota law is clearly too narrow for many Americans, as more than seven in 10 (74 percent) think abortion should be legal in the cases of rape or incest — including majorities of independents (82 percent), Democrats (79 percent) and Republicans (67 percent).

Fully 83 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal if the pregnancy puts the mother’s life at risk, and another 62 percent think it should be legal if the mother’s mental health is at risk.

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on Feb. 28 - March 1.

Overall, about half (49 percent) of Americans say on the issue of abortion they are pro-choice and four in 10 (41 percent) say pro-life.

Democrats (59 percent) and independents (51 percent) identify as pro-choice, while Republicans (53 percent) are pro-life. There is essentially no gender gap: 48 percent of women and 49 percent of men say they are pro-choice.

Those most likely to say they are pro-choice include self-identified liberals (69 percent), those with a college degree (60 percent) and those planning to vote Democratic in the upcoming midterm election (60 percent). In addition to Republicans, those most likely to say they are pro-life include self-identified conservatives (57 percent), those planning to vote Republican in November’s congressional election (57 percent) and Bush voters (56 percent).

The Future of Abortion

In February, the United States Supreme Court said it will hear a case this fall that challenges the constitutionality of banning partial-birth abortions.

By two-to-one Americans think partial birth abortions should be banned. Today, 61 percent say the procedure should be banned, up from 54 percent in 1998 and 46 percent in 1996.

"These results show that anti-abortion activists have made incremental progress increasing public opposition to specific procedures and circumstances," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "However, the negative reaction to the South Dakota bill and the fact that a plurality still describes themselves as pro-choice suggest that any attempt to enact sweeping change would meet with a backlash from the public."

Looking ahead five years down the road, the public expects there will be more limitations on getting an abortion in the United States. A 55-percent majority thinks there will be more restrictions and it will be harder to get an abortion, while less than half as many — 24 percent — think there will be fewer restrictions. About one in 10 think there will be no change.

PDF: Click here for full poll results.