Democrats are touting polls showing that most Americans favor upholding Roe v. Wade, but what they’re not saying is that voters also want to see significant restrictions on abortion that the left opposes.
Polling conducted over the past year shows that the majority support banning most abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, they oppose federal funding for abortion, and they don’t want abortion pills dispensed through the mail.
Such positions run counter to the Democratic Party line, which explains why pro-choice lawmakers don’t go there, said Floyd Ciruli, director of the University of Denver’s Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research.
“As soon as you start talking about restrictions, Democrats are playing defense, which is why they’re focused almost entirely on Roe and criminalization. They want to keep that the focus as much as possible,” said Mr. Ciruli. “That’s their best argument.”
Indeed, Democrats have driven that point home repeatedly since last week’s leaked Supreme Court draft opinion showed a majority of justices in favor of overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
If the court overturns Roe, the question of placing restrictions on abortion would return to the state legislatures and ultimately the voters.
Democrats, however, want to pose a different question to voters in November.
“I think the question that voters are going to be asking, when 75% of people are with us on this, is who should make this decision?” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “Should it be a woman and her doctor, or a politician? Should it be [Sen.] Ted Cruz making this decision or a woman and her family?”
The Democratic National Committee said last week that polls “consistently show that the strong majority of Americans reject abortion extremism.”
The Congressional Progressive Caucus said that five justices are “prepared to overturn what was a 7-2 decision in 1973 and that 69 percent of Americans across the political spectrum do not believe should be overturned,” citing a January poll by CNN.
“People across this country who mourn the politicization of the Supreme Court by a radical minority must take to the streets and to the voting booths,” the statement said.
Support for the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion has never dipped below 50%, based on Gallup polls dating back to 1989. The latest poll, released in May 2021, showed that 32% wanted to overturn Roe while 58% did not.
The support for Roe was higher in a CBS News/YouGov poll released Monday. It showed that 64% want to keep the decision in place, virtually the same as last week’s Fox News poll, which pegged Roe support at 63%.
As pro-life advocates point out, however, most Americans also support restrictions on abortion that Roe doesn’t permit.
The Fox poll found that 54% of registered voters surveyed supported banning abortion with medical exceptions after 15 weeks of gestation. Moreover, 50% favored such a ban after six weeks, the cutoff for so-called heartbeat bills, while 46% were opposed.
“The overwhelming majority of Americans want commonsense pro-life protections that current precedents don’t allow,” said Mallory Quigley, a spokesperson for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. “One recent national poll found that two-thirds of women — even more than men — would stop late abortions by at most 15 weeks when science shows unborn children feel pain.”
Both the 15- and six-week bans run afoul of Roe and its 1992 follow-up, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which held that women have a right to abortion without undue government interference before fetal viability, or 23 to 24 weeks of gestation.
“The reality is the majority of Americans actually have no idea what Roe actually allows: abortion through the entire pregnancy leading up to birth,” said Ryan Bomberger, co-founder of the pro-life Radiance Foundation. “If people understood that more, they wouldn’t be so quick to support it.”
The 15-week mark is the limit at issue in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the 2018 Mississippi law under review by the Supreme Court.
A pair of recent polls illustrate the public split. A 2018 Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows support for Roe at a record 71%. Compare that with January’s Knights of Columbus/Marist poll, which gauged support for legal limits on abortion at the same 71% level.
The Marist poll also found that 63% oppose the Biden administration’s push to allow abortion pills to be prescribed by telehealth and delivered via mail instead of prescribed in person by a certified health care provider.
In addition, 53% opposed using tax dollars to pay for abortions, which is barred by the Hyde Amendment. Democrats, including President Biden, have sought to remove the long-standing policy included in every federal budget since 1976.
Mr. Biden also lifted the Mexico City policy, which bars federal funding for organizations that support abortion overseas, even though the Marist poll showed 74% oppose using tax dollars for such a purpose.
While the Gallup poll showed most Americans identify as pro-choice by 49% to 47%, that doesn’t stop them from supporting restrictions. Only 32% said they wanted abortion to be legal under “any circumstances,” while 48% said it should be legal in “certain circumstances” and 19% said it should be always illegal.
An AP/NORC poll released in June found that 80% said abortion should usually be illegal in the third trimester, and 65% said the same for the second trimester.
The Democratic Party platform doesn’t mention any limits on abortion. States with Democratic legislatures such as Colorado, New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont have moved in recent years to lift virtually all limits, prompting Republicans to accuse the party of extremism.
“The view of elected Democratic Party is unlimited abortion on demand up until the moment of birth with taxpayer funding and without parental consent or notification,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said at a hearing last week. “That is a radical and extreme position.”
Carrie Severino, president of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, dared Democrats to put their claims about Roe to the test.
“If Democrats’ hypothesis that most Americans support Roe is correct, they will have no problem enacting state laws across the country allowing abortion,” she said. “But Democrats would rather continue to mislead about the practical effects of overturning Roe, as they have done for nearly 50 years.”
The CBS poll showed limits to the public’s support for restrictions. Two-thirds, or 67%, said they opposed a federal law making abortion illegal, while 33% supported it.
“That’s what you end up with: Keep it legal, don’t criminalize it, but on the other hand, well, you can certainly restrict it,” said Mr. Ciruli. “What they’re really saying is that ‘I accept some restrictions.’ And frankly, the Democrats may have to argue that ‘this restriction is, in fact, a ban,’ and I don’t think they’re going to win with that because a lot of this is pure politics.”