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Increasing number of Americans identifying as ‘pro-choice’ in 2013

By Kay Steiger
Tuesday, January 22, 2013 11:48 EDT
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Pro-choice rally via Sydigill / Flickr
 
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A new NBC News and Wall Street Journal poll published on Monday shows that a vast majority of Americans do not think the Supreme Court decision ruling abortion as a constitutional right should be overturned. The poll also builds on previous polling and indicates a record number of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances.

The poll, conducted earlier this month, shows that 70 percent of Americans say that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, with 57 percent of Americans feeling strongly about it. The poll also showed that 31 percent of Americans felt that abortion should be “always legal” and 23 percent felt it should be legal “most of the time.” Just 9 percent of Americans said they felt that abortion should be always illegal.

Previous polling showed that over the years shows that those who said Roe v. Wade should not be overturned has been increasing over time, with 61 percent saying so in 1989 and 65 percent saying so in 2005.

This likely explains how so-called personhood legislation, which would make abortion and many forms of birth control illegal under all circumstances, has failed multiple times in Colorado, North Dakota and even the conservative southern state of Mississippi.

The recent polling also runs counter to a much-touted Gallup poll published in May 2012 which found a “record” number of Americans identified as “pro-life” at 50 percent with “pro-choice” Americans claiming 41 percent of respondents. The poll was widely discredited as an outlier, with Washington Monthly blogger Ed Kilgore saying at the time, “So what does this mean? Probably nothing at all. The poll is likely an outlier, as the one in 2009 clearly seemed to be, particularly given the unusual stability over time of public opinion on abortion. But whatcha want to bet the Gallup headline gets a lot of attention, without much if any context, in certain precincts of the media? It’ll be fun to watch.”

However, Planned Parenthood appears to have taken the May poll more seriously than others did and recently released a strategic plan which showed the organization planned to turn away from the pro-choice label, saying the word choice itself “sounds frivolous.”

Pro-choice blogger Amanda Marcotte, writing for Slate, was skeptical of this move. “I can see why Planned Parenthood might want to shed the term in order to get these conflicted people to realize they are on Planned Parenthood’s side. But I’m afraid that the desire to go label-free is doomed to fail,” she wrote. “I’m not going to start writing pieces where I describe pro-choice organizations as pro-whatever-the-situation-is organizations or help-people-understand-the-circumstances organizations. Labels are simply part of language, and shorthand rhetoric is part of the political debate. As long as abortion is a contested issue, there’s no opting out of that.”

Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

[Ed note: Amanda Marcotte's blog, Pandagon, is hosted by Raw Story Media but maintains separate editorial control from Raw Story.]

[Pro-choice rally via Sydigill / Flickr]

Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
 
 
 
 
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