What Americans Want in a Supreme Court Pick

Polls Show US Opposition to Abortion

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NEW HAVEN, Connecticut, MAY 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- It's almost a guarantee that Barack Obama will seek a pro-abortion judge to fill a vacant spot on the Supreme Court, but polls show that a presidential pro-choice pick will go against the views of most Americans.



The Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, ZENIT columnist Carl Anderson, considered how polls are showing that Americans are no longer supporters of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

"That's not a controversial statement; it's simply true," Anderson said, in consideration of three polls that have showed Americans are not in favor of abortion to the extent that the Roe decision has been interpreted to allow.

The opinions of the American people on abortion should have particular importance right now, the Supreme Knight suggested, given that Obama and the Senate are considering a replacement for David Souter, the Supreme Court justice who announced his retirement May 1.

The president "will be pressured by a vocal minority to pick someone who passes a pro-Roe litmus test," Anderson said. "Politically and legally -- let alone ethically -- that is not the right move."

The nine Supreme Court justices sit for life; Obama's nominee is expected to be announced this week.

Plenty of consensus

Anderson noted that Roe vs. Wade has been interpreted to allow abortion without restriction. This, he said, "is at odds with the overwhelming majority of Americans according to several recent public opinion polls."

"And in light of this," he continued, "as the president and Senate consider an appointment to the Supreme Court, they should not waste the chance to embrace a growing American consensus by moving away from the absolutist position of Roe and its increasingly few adherents."

Citing a Pew poll and a Gallup poll, Anderson explained that there is "far more consensus on the issue [of abortion] than the political rhetoric would lead us to believe."

According to the Pew survey released April 30, only 18% favored legalized abortion "in all cases." Twenty-eight percent said it should be legal in "most cases"; that same percentage said the opposite: that abortion should be "illegal in most cases," and 16% said it should be illegal in all cases.

A Gallup poll released May 15 showed that a majority of Americans call themselves "pro-life." That survey found that more Americans believe abortion should always be illegal than those who believe the opposite: 22% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in any circumstance, but 23% believe it should be illegal in every circumstance. A majority, 53%, believe it should be legal "only under certain circumstances."

"Though the debate has been framed in terms of an all or nothing issue, the fact is -- as these polls show -- Americans by a more than 3:1 margin, want to move away from Roe and want some restrictions on abortion," Anderson explained.

Down to detail

The Supreme Knight went on to consider a poll conducted by his own organization last October, which offered more detail in its evaluation of the American stance on abortion.

According to that survey, only 8% of Americans agreed with abortion "any time during a pregnancy,” and another 8% supported abortion during the first six months of pregnancy. But 84% of Americans wanted more significant restrictions. Almost one quarter of U.S. citizens, 24%, wanted abortion limited to the first three months.

The greatest number, 32%, wanted to limit abortion to cases of rape, incest or saving the life of the mother, while another 15% wanted to limit abortion only to saving the life of the mother. Finally, 13% said abortion "should never be permitted."