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Pro-abortion activists wielding signs from the Feminist Majority Foundation, for which Jay Leno has hosted at least nine fundraisers, next to pro-lifers holding signs from Students for Life of America Alex Wong / Getty Images

(LifeSiteNews) — According to the Pew Research Center’s latest survey of abortion attitudes, 62% of Americans think abortion should remain generally legal, while pro-abortion sentiment is even more pervasive across Europe. Other recent polls show lower support for abortion in the U.S., however.

Released June 20, the Pew survey covers 24 nations including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, South Africa, Kenya, Japan, India, Mexico, and more. The survey, which mostly polled industrialized countries, found that overall, 71% of respondents thought abortion should be legal “in all or most cases,” with just 27% taking the opposite view.

In the United States, 62% responded that abortion should be legal in “all or most cases,” as opposed to 36% saying illegal in “all or most.” Pro-abortion sentiment was higher in all of the surveyed nations except Poland (56% generally legal), Indonesia (13%), Israel (51%), South Africa (41%), Kenya (11%), Nigeria (8%), Argentina (53%), Mexico (46%), and Brazil (26%).

Among Canadians, 78% said abortion should be generally legal, as opposed to 17% generally illegal. Support for legal abortion exceeded 70% in every European nation surveyed except Poland.

“Abortion rules are more restrictive in countries where support for legal abortion tends to be lower,” Pew says. “Abortions in Brazil, Indonesia and Nigeria are only permitted when a woman’s life is at risk, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. In Israel, Kenya and Poland, abortion is permitted to preserve a woman’s health. Most other countries surveyed have more permissive regulations that allow abortions up to a specific point during the pregnancy.”

There was also a strong correlation between a population’s religiosity and its opposition to abortion. But while in most countries there was also a correlation between lower per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) and lower tolerance for abortion, the United States was an outlier: “Among the high-income countries surveyed, Americans have the highest per capita GDP but are among the most likely to say religion is important to them. They are also among the least likely of the high-income countries to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.”

Pew also found that “women are significantly more likely than men to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases,” in America, Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Abortion allies have long insisted there is a “gender gap” to abortion attitudes, to the point that abortion would not be controversial “if men could get pregnant,” but that has not been the case in polling data of years past.

For America, Pew’s overall results are slightly to the left of a recent Tarrance Group poll commissioned by Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which found that only 26% of Americans support banning abortion “through pregnancy” with exceptions for rape, incest, or to save a mother’s life, but an additional 20% would ban abortion with those same exceptions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, for a combined 46% in favor of banning most surgical abortions.

In January, a Marist Institute poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus found that 44% of Americans would ban all or most abortions starting at conception, with much higher opposition to abortions later in pregnancy or other extremes such as taxpayer funding for abortion. Last month, Gallup found 49% thought abortion should be banned in all or most circumstances. 

These and other polls have consistently found that clear majorities of the American people are receptive to a variety of abortion restrictions more stringent than most states currently have, which pro-life activists have taken comfort in and cited as evidence that Republican politicians should not shirk from the issue. 

However, on the core question of abortion’s overall permissibility, they do suggest the pro-life message has lost ground when compared to past polling from Marist, CNN/ORC International, and Gallup, which from the 1990s through as recently as 2018 often found outright majority support for banning most abortions.

One possible option for pro-lifers to reverse the trend and make new inroads in public opinion might be to take a page from successful state efforts to get remove ideological lessons from public schools, by working to add accurate fetal development lessons to education curriculums, thereby dramatically expanding awareness that individual human life begins at fertilization. Evidence shows that simply displaying an ultrasound image of a preborn baby has a substantial impact on the likelihood of going through with an abortion.

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