Oliver Willis

What Percent Of America Supports Abortion Rights? Really.

For years the right has tried to claim that the Democratic Party’s position on abortion is more out of touch with the American mainstream than the Republican Party’s. They make this claim even though an unabashed supporter of a woman’s right to choose has won a plurality of the votes in five out of the last six presidential elections.

WASHINGTON – JANUARY 22: Pro-choice advocates participate in protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building January 22, 2010 in Washington, DC. Activists from across the nation gathered to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which decriminalized abortion in all fifty states. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Republican Party’s official party platform calls for a complete ban on abortion, while the most recent version of it expressed support for a “human life amendment” to the Constitution completely outlawing the medical procedure. Gallup polls show this position with 21% support, which is the highest its been in about 10 years, but far from a majority position.

The mainstream opinion on abortion is support, with some restrictions – a position held by 50% of the public, with another 28% supporting abortion rights without any restrictions at all. 78% of America supports an abortion position diametrically opposed to that held by the Republican Party.

The NY Times reports that the American National Election Studies poll in 2012 finds even less support for the GOP platform’s absolutist position – 12% oppose abortion under any circumstances.

The poll even shows that 30% of Republicans support legal abortion (the number doubles to 60% for Democrats) and “There is more support in both parties and among independents for legal abortion in all cases than there is for a total ban.”

The results also show that abortion in order to accomplish gender selection – abhorrent in my opinion – has a paltry 5% support.

But even the anti-abortion absolutists have more flexibility than the Republican Party’s official platform. 22% of those who say abortion shouldn’t be legal nonetheless say it should be an option if the life of the mother is threatened. In the 2008 election, losing candidate John McCain mocked the idea of this exception, yet even among Republican voters this is a fringe point of view.

The Democratic Party platform, as of 2012 (and I wouldn’t expect it to change much next year), states “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” It adds, “Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way.”

Individual Democratic leaders – like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – have expressed support for bans on partial birth abortions, but unlike the Republicans, have said we should do so with exceptions for the life of the mother. If the Republicans had their way, both the mother and fetus in these horrible situations would perish.

Abortion is yet another issue on which the Democrats remain firmly in the mainstream of American popular opinion, while the Republican absolutist position is on the fringe of the fringe of the debate. Yet the press continues to report on the issue as if both sides represent a public divided right down the middle. They aren’t.

America is pro-choice, and has been for some time. Yet only one of its political parties is.