Wednesday, July 24, 2002

A new Gallup Poll on abortion says that 58% want to keep abortion laws the way they are. But it also cited polls from 2000 saying that 86% favor making third trimester abortions illegal, and 82% favor requiring parental consent before a minor can get an abortion.

Abortion law is in the news because a Bush appointed Texas Supreme Court Associate Justice Priscilla Owen to the federal court (5th circuit court of appeals), and the Democrats are attacking her abortion record. Texas had a parental notification law until the Texas supreme court, led by Bush appointees, eviscerated it. Owen dissented (thereby favoring parental notification).

If 82% favor parental consent, then more than 82% must favor parental notification, and only a radical abortion proponent would take the other side. Is this really the worst thing the Democrats can find on Owen? 90% of the population must agree with her on this issue.

It appears that the public does not know what the abortion law is. Roe v. Wade made third trimester abortion a constitutional right in 1973. If 86% really favor third trimester abortion restrictions, then 86% must be in favor of tightening abortion laws. The new Gallup poll says only 39% want to make abortion laws more strict.

A lot of people are under the impression that the states can restrict third trimester abortions under Roe v. Wade. But that case, along with the companion case Doe v. Bolton, said that any woman could get a third trimester abortion for health reasons, where health is interpreted so broadly that no restriction has ever been allowed by the court. Here is an explanation.

Al Gore understood this point in the 2000 election. He endorsed limits on late-term abortions, provided that there was an exception for the health of the mother. He knew that any such limit would have not practical effect, because of the court interpretation of health.

The LA Times says that 57% say abortion is murder, but most of those think it should be legal anyway.

Update: As an example of a law professor misstating Roe v. Wade, Jeffrey Rosen says: "Many lawyers and law professors -- on both sides of the abortion issue, Democratic as well as Republican -- view Roe as a loosely reasoned decision that failed to explain convincingly why the Constitution protects the right to choose during the first trimester of pregnancy." [11-Aug-2002 NYTimes magazine] Well, yes, and it fails to convincingly why the Constitution protects the right to choose during the other two trimesters also.

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