For the first time ever, the majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal all or most of the time, according to a new poll from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News. The poll's results hit the web as DC denizens and out-of-town inauguration tourists prepare for an evening of balls and bubbly. It also happens to be the eve of the 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that dictate how the United States regulates abortion. (That's Jane Roe with her lawyer Gloria Allred above, by the way, after listening in on a 1989 abortion case.) The same WSJ/NBC poll showed that the decision has never been more popular amongst Americans of all political persuasions. To be precise, seven out ten of those surveyed believe that Roe v. Wade should stand despite recent calls for the decision to be overturned.
It's not often that 70 percent of Americans agree on something, especially something so controversial as abortion. To put that figure into perspective, the last major poll that asked Americans' opinion of the Supreme Court that could one day decide whether or not to overturn Roe v. Wade showed one of the lowest approval ratings in decades. A paltry 44% of those surveyed by The New York Times and CBS News approved of the Supreme Court last summer as it prepared to hear the case that would decide the fate of Obamacare. The disdain, The Times guessed, "could reflect a sense that the court is more political, after the ideologically divided 5-to-4 decisions in Bush v. Gore, which determined the 2000 presidential election, and Citizens United, the 2010 decision allowing unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions."
So it seems there are two things going on here. One, a woman's right to choose is becoming a more widely accepted reality in the United States, especially amongst Democrats, Hispanics and African Americans. But there's still a ways to go before we see widespread acceptance. Of those that accepted abortions in some cases, 35 percent believed that it should be illegal except in the case of rape or rape or if the mother's life were in danger. However, even more people would rather keep our current system in place than risk whatever alternative the overturning of Roe v. Wade would hold. The numbers would suggest that this is because most Americans don't trust the Supreme Court, and that might be true. Common sense tells us that the fear of the unknown is a power and policy-marking one, though.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.