This article appears in the Aug 2006 edition of the Catholic Medical Quarterly
Choose Life Poll Analysis
Methodology (for public attribution):
CommunicateResearch interviewed 1046 women and 457 men across Great Britain by telephone between 28 April and 4 May 2006. Data were weighed to be representative demographically of all GB adults. CommunicateResearch is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules (see www.britishpollingcouncil.com).
The Choose Life 2006 Survey of Public Opinion is the most in-depth survey of UK women on abortion for many years. Importantly, it was conducted using women-only interviewers, in order to encourage openness and honesty among female respondents.
In addition to the 1046 women who took part we interviewed 457 men, and for the set of tables showing both men and women, data were weighed to be representative of both sexes.
- Most Britons want to see the 200,000 abortions each year reduced in number -women more strongly so than men. Excluding those who don't express an opinion, the proportion is 65%: 35% who agree that this number should be reduced.
- Women are consistently more pro-life than men, and their knowledge and understanding of life in the womb is more accurate in terms of when an unborn baby's heart is beating and when a baby's nervous system develops.
- Most people, including fully 75% of women, believe abortion is effectively available on demand.
Reforming abortion law
- More than eight in ten women believe that aborting a baby at the current upper age limit (six months) is cruel
- A massive 95% of Britons agree that the abortion law should be kept under regular review and fewer than one in twenty disagrees.
- Two-thirds of Britons believe that abortion law hasn't kept pace with our knowledge of early development in the womb. Only one-quarter disagree.
Reasons for abortion and the decision-making process
- 78% of women want a compulsory cooling-off period between diagnosis of pregnancy and any abortion.
- A massive 96% of women want a right to be fully informed of the medical risks associated with abortion.
- The most common reason for abortion is perceived to be on grounds of disability (66%); this proportion is even higher among women than among men. (In 2004 1% of abortions in England & Wales took place on this ground)
- Two-thirds of Britons support, and one-quarter oppose, a right for healthcare workers not to have to sign abortion forms or assist abortions where this would conflict with their ethical views.
- 84% of Britons, including the same proportion of women, believe parents of girls under under 16 have the right to know if their daughter has been referred for abortion. Interestingly this rises to 90% among women in social groups DE, often regarded as the most prolific client group for abortion.
- More than seven in ten Britons, including two-thirds of women, agree that fathers should be given a say over whether their child is aborted. Among women aged 18-24this rises to 79%.
- More people agree than disagree with the statement `most abortions are carried out for purely social reasons'(49%:41%). This rises to 56% agree among Labour voters.
- The phrase "a woman's right to choose" clearly carries enormous emotional weight as 65% of Britons (both genders) agree that it `always outweighs the rights of the unborn'. This however conflicts with the earlier statements about eg abortion for disability.
- Only around one-third of people are aware that abortion is legal up to birth if the baby is disabled, and men are more ignorant than women of this. The youngest age group, 18-24 yrs, are the least likely to be aware of this fact.
- Most Britons regard it as unacceptable that under existing law abortion is legal up to birth on grounds of disability. Opinion runs strongest among the 18-24yr age group, 73% of whom regard it as unacceptable - perhaps because disability rights legislation is a more recent development? Interestingly, among both men and women those who voted Labour in the 2005 General Election are more likely to regard this law as unacceptable than those who voted for any other party.
Support for alternatives to abortion
- 87% of women (and 83% of men) agree that government funds should also be avilable to organisations offering alternatives to abortion such as adoption, in light of the funding given to private abortion clinics.
- 89% of women support a legal duty on doctors to provide access to advice both from abortion providers and from organisations offering alternatives such as adoption.
- 85% of women would rather see more support for women who wish to keep their baby than easier access to abortion, and support for this is particularly strong among the 18-24 age group and Labour voters.
Private abortion clinics
- Half of all Britons, including the same proportion of women, regard it as unacceptable for the NHS to pay private clinics to conduct abortions. This rises to54% for women who voted Labour in the 2005 General Election.
- Attitudes towards abortions in private clinics are generally favourable in terms of the care received by comparison with NHS clinics, with 68% overall (71% of women) who say that care is equally good.
- However, almost half of Britons say that the financial relationship between private clinics and the NHS `makes it less likely that women receive impartial advice' in private clinics. This rises to 51% of women aged 18-24.
Political impact of candidates supporting a reduction in abortion
- There is no net impact on support for Parliamentary candidates if they declare a view that abortion should be made less easily available - those who are more likely to vote for such a candidate are cancelled out by those who are less likely to vote for one.