Abortion is always acceptable
While US attitudes towards many social issues - such as homosexual rights, pornography, or teenage sex - have become more liberal in recent decades, this is not the case when it comes to evaluating abortions: the fronts are stable on a similar scale for it or against. In 2018 it is 48 vs. 48 percent.
In Germany, the opinions for or against an abortion are clear: In the case of aspects of the endangerment of the woman's health, if the baby is not healthy or after a rape, a general approval of the woman's right to abortion applies. The activists against the sexual self-determination of women in Germany, who call themselves the “right to life movement”, did not only emerge in the USA, but also get support from there. The trends on this topic in the USA show that this will not change in the future either.
American views on abortion remain divided. Currently, as many Americans personally identify as “pro-choice” (self-determination) as they are “pro-life” (against abortion).
The latest results were measured May 1-10, 2018 in the Gallup Values and Beliefs Survey. Currently, the problem has received renewed state attention in the United States, as Iowa recently passed restrictive law banning almost all abortions once a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, which often occurs early in pregnancy. The US Supreme Court also recently approved a ban on abortion pills in Arkansas.
When asked about the legality of an abortion, half of Americans will stand in the middle of the street and say that abortion should be legal "only in certain circumstances." Americans with more absolute positions tend to be on the side of abortion, which is legal in all circumstances (29 percent) than it is illegal in all circumstances (18 percent).
Historically, Americans were most likely to have preferred the middle position - abortion is legal in certain circumstances. Rarely has the proportion of supporters of legal abortion fallen below 50 percent under certain circumstances. The percentage of those who want abortion to always be legal has increased slightly, from 21 percent in 1975 to 29 percent today. This percentage fluctuated in the meantime and reached more than 30 percent from 1990 to 1996, but fell to 22 percent in 2009 and averaged 27 percent. The 18 percent of Americans who want abortion to be illegal in all circumstances is in line with the 43-year average.
Reason and timing
Abortion assistance depends on the specific reason a woman is requesting the procedure. And that, in turn, depends on whether it occurs early or late in the pregnancy.
Gallup is examining these differences in the new survey by repeating an experiment that was also carried out 15 years ago. Half of the respondents were asked whether abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy should be legal for various reasons. The other half were asked about the same reasons in the third trimester. The situations (including a new one this year with a focus on Down syndrome) are:
- if the woman's life is at risk / - if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest / - if the child would be born with a life-threatening disease / - if the child would be mentally disabled / - if the child would be born with Down's syndrome / - if for some reason the woman does not want the child.
The most commonly accepted reason for abortion, with little difference in time support, is when the woman's life is at risk: 83 percent think it should be legal in the first trimester and 75 percent in the third trimester. Majorities also think that abortion should be legal in both trimesters if performed because the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, although support falls from 77 problems in the first trimester to just under half (52 percent) in the third.
Abortions performed because the child is born with medical problems - either a life-threatening illness or an intellectual disability - receives majority support if done in the first trimester, but less than majority support in the third trimester.
Americans are divided about first trimester abortion if Down's syndrome is discovered; they are in favor of 49 percent; but support drops to 29 percent for abortions for this reason in the third trimester. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify Down syndrome as "the most common chromosomal disorder" affecting approximately 1 in 700 babies born in the United States.
Less than half of Americans support abortions performed in the first or third trimester if the woman does not want the child "for some reason," with a marked decrease from the first trimester (45 percent) to the last trimester ( 20 percent).
Some politicians believe that abortion is a typical “women's issue”, but the differences between women and men are only marginal. Since 1990, the average difference between the sexes in believing that abortion should be legal in all circumstances has been four percentage points, with women more likely than men to take this position. Over the past four years, an average of 31 percent of women and 26 percent of men have held this view.
Gender differences in the view that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances have been even smaller, with an average difference of two points since 1990. There has been no difference over the past four years, with 19 percent of men and women saying that abbot should be completely illegal.
The level of education is one of the indicators for positioning towards abortion, whereby university graduates are more likely to be in favor of the legality of an abortion in all circumstances than those with less formal education. There is also a gender difference in this regard: In the past four years, 42 percent of female university graduates chose the alternative “legal under all circumstances”, compared to 32 percent of male university graduates.
The majority of adults between 18 and 49 years of age take the “pro-choice” position (self-determination), while the majority of adults aged 50 and over are “pro-life”. Age differences in supporting abortion legality have been fairly consistent since the 1970s.
The 12 percentage point difference between the youngest and oldest Americans who describe themselves as “pro-choice” (56 vs. 44 percent) is reflected in a 12-point gap in the two groups' beliefs that abortion is under Should be legal under all circumstances (37 versus 25 percent) and a 13-point gap for those who say abortion is morally acceptable and not morally wrong (51 versus 38 percent).
These double-digit age differences exceed the three- to four-point differences Gallup finds in the same gender questions, suggesting that abortion is more of a generational rather than a gender problem.
Despite willingness to go to one of the two main recruitment centers for or against abortion, the plurality or majority of all four age groups express qualified support for abortion and say that it should be legal in certain circumstances. This ambiguity has been a defining feature of attitudes towards abortion in the United States since Gallup began asking this question in 1975.
The proportion of Americans who describe themselves as socially liberal and socially conservative is currently 33 percent each. Although this is only the second time since 1999 that the percentages have been the same, the two groups have moved closer over the past six years. Before 2013, the social conservatives had a clear numerical advantage over the 'social democrats'.
The decreased conservative share in social ideology is consistent with a trend for Americans to adopt more liberal (i.e., less conservative) positions on a variety of social issues, including gay marriage, marijuana legalization, animal cloning, and pornography.
Americans who say they hold liberal views on social issues differ markedly from social conservatives when it comes to the morality of most moral issues, with the greatest disagreement being about abortion.
The difference between liberals and conservatives for the moral acceptance of abortion is 47 percentage points (66 vs. 19 percent), followed by a 38 percentage point difference in the acceptance of same-sex relationships (85 vs. 47 percent).
Of the 21 questions tested in this survey, 16 are considered morally acceptable by majorities of social liberals, while only eight are considered acceptable by majorities of social conservatives. Both groups are most likely to consider birth control acceptable and extramarital affairs most likely to be acceptable. In addition, majorities of both groups consider premarital sex, gambling, divorce, alcohol consumption, the death penalty, and buying and wearing animal fur clothing to be morally acceptable.
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