WASHINGTON -- More than 60 percent of Americans in a new Gallup poll believe abortion should be illegal in most circumstances, a six-year high that puts them at odds with Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion for virtually any reason.
Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances or legal in only a few circumstances, compared to 37 percent who say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances. The 61 percent is an increase from 56 percent last year and is the highest since 2005, when 62 percent answered similarly.
Additionally, 51 percent of U.S. adults say abortion is morally wrong compared to 39 percent who say it is morally acceptable.
"No matter how you slice it, that signals that Americans are much, much closer to where you and I are than to [Planned Parenthood]," Dave Andrusko, who writes for National Right to Life News, wrote May 24.
But, perhaps puzzling, 49 percent of Americans call themselves pro-choice compared to 45 percent who call themselves pro-life. Last year it was reversed: 47 percent claiming the pro-life label, 45 percent the pro-choice label.
The 1973 Roe decision, coupled with the companion Doe v. Bolton ruling, legalized abortion nationwide for effectively any reason during all nine months of pregnancy.
Pro-lifers, though, have made significant headway in public opinion, partly though the debate over and passage of popular pro-life laws.
In February 1995, nine months before a partial-birth abortion ban first passed the U.S. House of Representatives, 33 percent of adults in a Gallup poll said abortion should be legal "under any circumstances." By August 1997 -- just prior to President Clinton vetoing a partial-birth bill for the second time -- that number had dropped to 22 percent.
Similarly, self-described pro-choicers topped pro-lifers 56-33 percent in a 1995 Gallup poll -- a stat that eventually reversed itself in 2009, when by a 51-42 percent margin Americans called themselves pro-life. That stat has been tighter the past two years.
Pro-life groups hope a series of new pro-life laws on the state level will have a similar effect.
Most abortions are performed for reasons of convenience. According to a 2004 Guttmacher study of women who had had abortions, rape and incest each were cited by less than half of 1 percent of all women who underwent abortion. All total, 86 percent cited reasons of convenience: 25 percent said they weren't ready for a child, 23 percent said they couldn't afford to have one, 19 percent said they didn't want any more children, 8 percent said they didn't want to be a single mother or they had relationship problems, 7 percent said they were too young to have a child and 4 percent said they believed a child would interfere with their education or career.