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Whats Polls Say About Abortion Views


How do Americans feel about abortion? Alabama's made performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases. The Missouri legislature passed a bill that would ban most abortions after eight weeks. Both are likely to be appealed. More than 40 years after the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that gave women the right to an abortion, have Americans changed how they feel about the procedure? Ariel Edwards-Levy, staff reporter and polling director at The Huffington Post, joins us in our studios. Thanks so much for being with us.

ARIEL EDWARDS-LEVY: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: Broadly speaking, what are the range of feelings Americans have about abortion?

EDWARDS-LEVY: So most people do support the right to abortion in most or all cases. Most people do support Roe v. Wade. But abortion is one of those views where very few people have absolute feelings about it. What you see much more often is people who would say that it should to be legal in most cases but not all or in some cases but not none. And so one of the reasons that this law is interesting is that it really is much further along than even many people who would call themselves pro-life might want to see out of abortion policy.

SIMON: This is the Alabama law...


SIMON: ...To which you're referring. So people might refer to themselves as pro-life or pro-choice. But there are shades of opinion within their - within the way they identify themselves.

EDWARDS-LEVY: Yes. Every poll question - it matters sort of what exactly you're asking people to answer. But it really matters with questions of abortion because you see things like - you know, according to one survey, about a third of people who call themselves pro-life will also say that they support abortion in the first trimester. And then actually, the majority of people who call themselves pro-life will say that they support exceptions when the life of the mother is at risk, which the Alabama bill does allow for and in cases of rape or incest, which it does not.

SIMON: So a lot depends on the way the question is framed, right?

EDWARDS-LEVY: Absolutely. And just because this is one of those issues where there's so much gray area, you know, different questions will get sort of very different responses. But there is sort of a broad, consistent pattern which is that, generally speaking, most people don't want to see something quite this strict.

SIMON: Let me ask the inevitable political question. Does it matter so much the percentages as to what people think and feel nationally about the issue of abortion so much as how they feel in their own congressional districts and states?

EDWARDS-LEVY: It also sort of depends, I think - the timing as much as anything where - is this something that we're going to be talking about two years from - like, a year from now when people are actually voting? So, you know, I think there is a potential for people to really - for this to hit home for a lot of people.

SIMON: Ariel Edwards-Levy, staff reporter and polling director at The Huffington Post, thanks so much for being with us.

EDWARDS-LEVY: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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