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NOW sign that says "Keep Abortion Legal"
How most of America feels
On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, NBC/WSJ has released a supposedly stunning new poll that actually confirms what most other polling on abortion shows: Americans want reproductive rights to remain legal, thank you very much:
[A] majority of Americans – for the first time – believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

What’s more, seven in 10 respondents oppose Roe v. Wade being overturned, which is the highest percentage on this question since 1989. [...]

According to the poll, 54 percent of adults say that abortion should be legal either always or most of the time, while a combined 44 percent said it should be illegal – either with or without exceptions.

This isn't really news, though. Because every time Americans are polled on the issue of abortion, the numbers always show the same thing: Americans are mightily confused about what Roe is or whether they are "pro-life" or "pro-choice" or under what circumstances they think abortion is wrong, but the one thing they are perfectly clear and consistent about is that they want abortion to remain legal.

Consider, for example, a Gallup poll from May 2011, which found that a mere 41 percent of Americans identify as "pro-choice." The forced-birther movement was quick to crow with glee that they were winning the debate over reproductive rights. The traditional media, of course, was only too happy to push that narrative as well. Women beware, because most Americans don't support your right to make your own reproductive decisions.

Except that's not what the poll really showed. Instead, it demonstrated that calling oneself "pro-life" or "pro-choice" is entirely meaningless when you consider:

Only 20 percent of Americans think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. Which means the overwhelming majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or some circumstances. Even among the 51 percent who consider abortion "morally wrong," many of those same people still don't think abortion should be completely outlawed.
In other words, regardless of whatever labels Americans use, or whether they think abortion is wrong, or what they think about a Supreme Court case they don't even understand—the vast majority of Americans support keeping abortion legal. Just like the latest poll shows. Just like all the other polls show. Even Americans who think abortion is wrong want it to remain legal. Even Americans who call themselves "pro-life" want it to remain legal. Even those assholes who terrorize women and their doctors outside health clinics, and then get indignant when their knocked-up daughters have to jump through so many absurd loopholes to obtain a legal medical procedure—even they want it to remain legal.

So this latest poll is good news, but it isn't really very different from what all the other polling has always shown: Americans want abortion to be legal. The rest is just semantics.

Originally posted to Kaili Joy Gray on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 11:16 AM PST.

Also republished by Abortion and Daily Kos.

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