Poll: Americans Back Late Abortion Ban, Women More Pro-Life

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 17, 2012   |   11:53AM   |   Washington, DC

A new poll show Americans are strongly in favor of banning late abortions and do not like the fact that abortion is legal up to the point of birth in the nation’s capital or that unborn children can be killed after the point at which they can feel pain.

The Polling Company conducted a nationwide survey of Americans for the National Right to Life Committee to focus on legislation Congress is currently considering.

One bill, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 3803), is scheduled to be voted on by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, July 18. The measure is important because the District of Columbia has no abortion law — meaning abortions are legal up to birth for any reason.

However, by a 2-to-1 margin (58-27%), American adults, once informed of the current abortion policy in the nation’s capital – legal abortion, for any reason, until birth – would be more likely to vote for lawmakers who support a pending bill that would not permit abortion in the District of Columbia after 22 weeks of pregnancy (20 weeks after fertilization), except to save a mother’s life.

The poll found women were less likely to support members of Congress who favored abortion to the point of birth compared with men.

The polling firm asked:

Currently, within the District of Columbia, the nation’s capital, there is no abortion law at all.  This means that abortion is legal there, for any reason, right up until the moment of birth.  This summer, Congress is considering a bill that would not allow abortion in the District of Columbia after 22 weeks of pregnancy – which means after the beginning of the sixth month of pregnancy – unless the mother’s life is in danger.  Would you be more or less likely to vote for a Member of Congress who votes in favor of this bill? And would you be (ROTATED) more or less likely to vote for a Member of Congress who votes in favor of this bill? (PROBED: And would that be MUCH or SOMEWHAT MORE/LESS LIKELY?)

58% TOTAL MORE LIKELY (NET) [women: 62%; men: 53%]

27% TOTAL LESS LIKELY (NET) [women: 27%; men, 27%]


“In the District of Columbia, abortion is now legal, for any reason, until the moment of birth,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.  “Under the Constitution, Members of Congress, and the President, are ultimately accountable for this extreme policy.  A vote against this bill amounts to a vote to ratify the current policy in the nation’s capital, which is legal abortion for any reason until the moment of birth.”

In response to a separate poll question, adults favored, by a 3-to-1 margin, a policy of not permitting abortion anywhere “after the point where substantial medical evidence says that the unborn child can feel pain,” unless it is “necessary to save a mother’s life.”

The polling firm asked:

Unless an abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, do you think abortion should be permitted after the point where substantial medical evidence says that the unborn child can feel pain?

63% NO, ABORTION SHOULD NOT BE PERMITTED [women:70%; men:55%]
21% YES, ABORTION SHOULD BE PERMITTED [women:18%, men:25%]

Arizona Republican Congressman Trent Franks introduced the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill is similar to a first-in-the-nation law the state of Nebraska passed that successfully drove late-term abortion practitioner LeRoy Carhart to move most of his abortion business to Maryland and bans abortions at 22 weeks gestation (20 weeks post-conception) due to the scientific evidence that not only do unborn children feel pain, they feel it more acutely because pain “dampeners” do not fully develop until 40 weeks gestation, and later.

According to officials with National Right to Life, at least two abortion providers currently are advertising that they provide abortions in the District past the point that the bill would establish protection – one to 24 weeks after fertilization, and the other during the third trimester, at least to seven and one-half months, and perhaps later.

During a committee hearing earlier this year, the committee heard compelling scientific evidence that demonstrates that by 20 weeks (if not earlier), the unborn child experiences excruciating pain when being dismembered by brute force in a “D&E” abortion.

In the bill, Congress adopts “findings” (declarations of fact) that by 20 weeks after fertilization (if not earlier), the unborn child has the capacity to experience great pain. The bill then prohibits abortion after that point, except when an acute physical condition endangers the life of the mother. Expert testimony was presented at a May 17 hearing on the bill showing that at 20 weeks fetal age, 6 percent of infants born spontaneously now survive long term in good neo-natal units. The long-term survival rates are 26% at 21 weeks fetal age and 55% at 22 weeks fetal age. (To convert to the alternate “LMP” dating system, add two weeks to each figure.)

The science behind the concept of fetal pain is fully established and Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into it. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for it.

He has testified before Congress that an unborn child could feel pain at “eight-and-a-half weeks and possibly earlier” and that a baby before birth “under the right circumstances, is capable of crying.”

He and his colleagues Dr. Vincent J. Collins and Thomas J. Marzen  were the top researchers to point to fetal pain decades ago. Collins, before his death, was Professor of Anesthesiology at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois and author of Principles of Anesthesiology, one of the leading medical texts on the control of pain.

“The functioning neurological structures necessary to suffer pain are developed early in a child’s development in the womb,” they wrote.



“Functioning neurological structures necessary for pain sensation are in place as early as 8 weeks, but certainly by 13 1/2 weeks of gestation. Sensory nerves, including nociceptors, reach the skin of the fetus before the 9th week of gestation. The first detectable brain activity occurs in the thalamus between the 8th and 10th weeks. The movement of electrical impulses through the neural fibers and spinal column takes place between 8 and 9 weeks gestation. By 13 1/2 weeks, the entire sensory nervous system functions as a whole in all parts of the body,” they continued.

With Zielinski and his colleagues the first to provide the scientific basis for the concept of fetal pain, Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand of the University of Arkansas Medical Center has provided further research to substantiate their work.

“The neural pathways are present for pain to be experienced quite early by unborn babies,” explains Steven Calvin, M.D., perinatologist, chair of the Program in Human Rights Medicine, University of Minnesota, where he teaches obstetrics.