Poll: Abortion Views Conflicted

Sunday, June 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A majority of Americans believe abortion is murder, but more than two-thirds think the decision to have one must be left to a woman and her doctor, according to a Los Angeles Times poll released Sunday.

The poll is full of responses that seem contradictory, for instance, 65 percent of those questioned oppose a constitutional amendment banning abortion but only 43 percent support the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that established the right to abortion.

More than half of the 57 percent of respondents who think abortion is murder also believe women should have the right to choose.

``I don't think I personally would have an abortion. But ... I don't know that it's fair to make someone go through that — an unwanted pregnancy,'' said a medical sales agent in Florida who asked that her name not be used. ``I just feel it's a personal choice with a lot of gray areas.''

The Times surveyed 2,071 Americans by telephone from June 8 through Tuesday. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Susan Carroll, a senior research associate who studies abortion at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said many Americans are reluctant to impose their abortion views on others.

``It's kind of a live-and-let-live approach,'' Carroll said. ``Most Americans are in favor of letting people make their own individual choices.''

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said abortion should be illegal after the first three months of pregnancy. The poll also showed rising support for making the ``abortion pill'' RU-486 widely available, with supporters nearly even with opponents.

Roughly six out of seven people surveyed said they support abortion when a woman's physical health is at risk; about two-thirds said they support it when the fetus is at risk of an abnormality; but barely half said they were in favor when the issue is the woman's emotional health.

The same poll also asked respondents' views on homosexuality and found that a majority of those surveyed think homosexuality is wrong but that they have grown more comfortable around gays and lesbians.

Sixty percent of people surveyed said they feel comfortable around gays and lesbians. Only 40 percent felt that way in a 1983 poll. Part of the reason may be that in those 17 years, the percentage of people who said they knew an openly gay person has more than doubled, from 30 percent to 73 percent.

About two-thirds of respondents said they believe homosexuals should be protected from job and housing discrimination; half said they should get benefits married couples enjoy; but only 34 percent said they support marriage between homosexuals. About two-thirds said they believe homosexual relationships are generally wrong.