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January 23, 2013 at 8:45 AM

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Opinion polls show strong support for Roe v. Wade

In one of today's editorials, the Seattle Times supports the Reproductive Parity Act, a legislative measure that would guarantee insurance plans continue to cover abortions if they cover maternal care in Washington.

Forty years after the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing the procedure, polls indicate a majority of Americans support a woman's right to choose.

The Guttmacher Institute has produced five infographics to commemorate this milestone.
Also check out the video below for a visual look at abortion trends in the United States. I hope the facts will open your eyes.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds that seven in ten Americans believe the ruling should stand.

That is the highest level of support for the decision, which established a woman's right to an abortion, since polls began tracking it in 1989. The shift is mostly the result of more Democrats backing the decision—particularly Hispanics and African-Americans—and a slight uptick in support from Republicans.

This separate Gallup poll concludes "significantly more Americans want the landmark abortion decision kept in place rather than overturned, 53% to 29%. Another 18% have no opinion, the highest level of uncertainty Gallup has recorded on this question in trends dating to 1989."

Gallup also reports that support drops off significantly when respondents are asked about abortions in the second and third trimester. What about the group that has no opinion on the matter?

This suggests that the generation born entirely after Roe became law has had less exposure to information about the decision than those who lived through the original decision, or were at least old enough to witness some of the major abortion debates during the 1980s and '90s.

That lack of context is exactly what concerns the generation of women who remember life before Jan. 22, 1973.

On Tuesday evening, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest commemorated the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade by hosting a discussion with Sarah Weddington, the attorney who successfully argued the case at the age of 26.

Weddington emphasized that nowadays abortion opponents are less focused on overturning Roe v. Wade and more focused on chipping away access to the procedure at the state level. Washington has few restrictions, although a bill has been filed in the Legislature to require parental notification.

Her Q&A was preceded by Lee Minto, the legendary former CEO and president of Seattle's Planned Parenthood affiliate. Minto led Washington's effort to legalize abortion in 1970, three years before the Supreme Court's ruling. She also worked tirelessly over the years to ensure poor women received assistance. (I highly suggest you read's fascinating history of abortion rights in Washington.)

The 85-year-old said she was driven to take action by the horror stories she encountered before abortion was legal. Minto choked up while recounting the desperation of an elderly Skagit Valley mother unable to afford an abortion for her developmentally disabled daughter. Another time, she talked to a man who'd sold his car for $400 to pay for an illegal abortion. The woman ended up getting raped and had to be taken to Harborview.

"We simply cannot let that happen again," Minto told the spellbound audience, which included a large contingent under the age of 40.

Today, poor women and minorities are more likely to experience unintended pregnancies. We must remember the best way to prevent abortion — and the culture war that accompanies it — is to make family planning accessible to all women regardless of their financial circumstances.

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