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A recent Associated Press survey showed a surprisingly large percentage of Americans in favor of upholding the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision, but the poll question itself was misleading, telling respondents Roe legalized abortion only in the first three months of pregnancy – rather than throughout the entire nine months.
According to the poll, conducted Nov. 19-21 by Ipsos-Public Affairs, 59 percent of Americans want President Bush to nominate Supreme Court justices who would uphold Roe v. Wade. Some 31 percent of respondents wanted new justices who would overturn the decision and 10 percent were unsure.
The question posed by Ipsos on behalf of the Associated Press was as follows:
“As you may know, President Bush may have the opportunity to appoint several new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court during his second term. The 1973 Supreme Court ruling called Roe v. Wade made abortion in the first three months of pregnancy legal. Do you think President Bush should nominate Supreme Court justices who would uphold the Roe v. Wade decision, or nominate justices who would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision?”
In reality, Roe v. Wade struck down all laws restricting abortion in all 50 states, in effect legalizing abortion throughout the entire nine months of gestation.
According to the Roe decision, during the first trimester abortion is legal; after the first trimester and until “viability” the state may regulate only issues such as who will perform the abortion and where it will be performed. Even after viability, the state cannot prohibit a woman from having an abortion if it is deemed necessary for the preservation of her health – “health” being characterized by the court as including mental, psychological and financial well-being.
Here’s how the Supreme Court put it in Roe:
- (a) For the stage prior to approximately the end of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician.
(b) For the stage subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.
(c) For the stage subsequent to viability the State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.
The ruling actually gave examples of how states might regulate abortions in the second trimester before the fetus is viable. Specifically:
- Examples of permissible state regulation in this area are requirements as to the qualifications of the person who is to perform the abortion; as to the licensure of that person; as to the facility in which the procedure is to be performed, that is, whether it must be a hospital or may be a clinic or some other place of less-than-hospital status; as to the licensing of the facility; and the like.
After viability, the power of the state to prohibit abortions is extremely limited – many say non-existent – because of the phrase “health of the mother.” Roe defined “health” to encompass mental health, psychological health and financial health:
- Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.
Critics are crying foul.
“Roe v. Wade allows absolutely no limits on reasons for abortion until nearly six months into pregnancy,” National Right to Life legislative director Douglas Johnson told LifeNews.com. “It is way past time for the news media to stop distorting the real terms of Roe v. Wade.”
The Associated Press “paint[s] a greatly exaggerated picture of public support for the Supreme Court’s abortion policy,” Johnson added, according to the report.
The misleading characterization of Roe in the AP-Ipsos survey question was repeated in a Nov. 28 Associated Press story by Will Lester, which stated that Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the first three months of pregnancy.
The poll was apparently a follow-up on another AP-Ipsos survey conducted at the beginning of November, which posed the same question with the same misleading summary of Roe v. Wade. The Nov. 19-21 poll, which asked other questions besides the one discussed here, surveyed by phone 1,000 adults nationwide and has a margin of error of ? 3 percent.
Ipsos-Public Affairs referred WorldNetDaily to the Associated Press for comment, but repeated requests to AP over several days have not been answered.
Sarah Kupelian is a reporter intern for WorldNetDaily.com.