Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Roe v. Wade at 40: Most Oppose Overturning SCOTUS Decision

As the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision approaches, the public remains opposed to overturning the historic ruling on abortion, according to a new Pew Research study. The court's Roe v. Wade decision established a woman’s constitutional right to abortion at least in the first three months of pregnancy.

During the 112th Congress, Republicans introduced several bills to outlaw abortion.  One of those bills proposed a Personhood Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision. As Mother Jones reported, the Personhood amendment would outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, domestic violence and life-threatening ectopic pregnancies. In addition, this change to the Constitution would criminalize in-vitro fertilization and common birth control methods, including birth control pills and IUD's.  (More: The Republican War on Women and Justice Scalia: Women Have No Constitutional Right to Abortion and Contraception.

The Pew study shows that Republicans are out of step with the American public on this "pro choice" issue.  Decades after the Supreme Court rendered its decision, on Jan. 22, 1973,  more than six-in-ten (63%) say they would not like to see the Roe v. Wade decision overturned. Only about three-in-ten (29%) would like to see the ruling overturned. These opinions are little changed from surveys conducted 10 and 20 years ago.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, finds that abortion is viewed as a less important issue than in the past. Currently, 53% say abortion “is not that important compared to other issues,” up from 48% in 2009 and 32% in 2006. The percentage viewing abortion as a “critical issue facing the country” fell from 28% in 2006 to 15% in 2009 and now stands at 18 percent.

White evangelical Protestants are the only major religious group in which a majority (54%) favors completely overturning the Roe v. Wade decision. Large percentages of white mainline Protestants (76%), black Protestants (65%) and white Catholics (63%) say the ruling should not be overturned. Fully 82% of the religiously unaffiliated oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.

Half of Americans who attend religious services at least weekly favor completely overturning the Roe v. Wade decision, compared with just 17% of those who attend less often.

Republicans are evenly divided over whether the ruling should be overturned: 46% say it should, while 48% say it should not. 

By wide margins, Democrats (74% to 20%) and independents (64% to 28%) oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. There is no gender gap in opinions about Roe v. Wade: Nearly identical percentages of women (64%) and men (63%) oppose reversing the decision.

Read the full Pew Research report.

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