Poll: 52 percent of Americans say life begins at conception

In March, the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office announced that Dynel Lane would not be charged with murdering Michelle Wilkins’ 7-month old baby. Lane attacked a pregnant Michelle Wilkins with a knife, cutting out her baby in the melee. It’s a particularly gruesome episode:

Police said Lane, who was a Colorado certified nurse’s aide from 2010 to 2012, attacked Wilkins, 26, on March 18 at Lane’s apartment in the 1600 block of Green Place in Longmont. Wilkins went to the home at about 11:51 a.m. to respond to a Craigslist ad of baby clothes for sale.

Lane’s husband, David Ridley, came home at 2:15 p.m. to take his wife to a prenatal checkup. He was met at the stairs by Lane, who was covered in blood.

She told her husband that she had a miscarriage and that the baby was in the bathtub upstairs. Ridley said he “rubbed the baby slightly then rolled it over to hear and see it take a gasping breath.”

He then drove his wife and the baby to the hospital.

Wilkins, wounded in the basement, called 911 at 2:41 p.m. Lane was arrested at Longmont United Hospital at 7:46 p.m.

According to the Denver Post, under Colorado law, no murder charges can be filed in cases involving babies in utero if there is no evidence that shows the child could have lived outside the womb.

District Attorney Stan Garnett said that Lane could still be charged with “unwanted termination of a pregnancy.”

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This case provided the basis for a YouGov poll, which showed that 66 percent of Americans think babies in the womb are people; 52 percent think that life begins at conception; and that 76 percent of Americans feel that the Longmont attack was murder. While only 36 percent of Americans under 30 agree that life begins at conception, the silver lining in this poll is that a solid majority support restrictions on abortion. Moreover, support for late term abortion remains extremely low:

Most Americans (52%) believe that life starts at conception. A further 20% believe that life begins when a fetus is able to survive outside of the womb, while 18% think that it only begins at the moment of birth. Attitudes towards when, exactly, life begins differ greatly according to age. While 63% of over-65s and 61% of people aged 45 to 64 believe that life begins at conception, only 36% of under-30s agree with them. Just under half of under-30s either believe that life begins when a fetus can survive (25%) or at birth (22%).

Asked broadly about abortion rights, 56% of Americans think that abortion should not be legal on request, with 17% saying that it should never be allowed and 39% saying that it should only be allowed in certain special cases. 16% support abortion until the first trimester, while 9% support it until the point of survivability. 20% believe that abortion should always be legal.

When you break down life at conception, ability to live outside the womb, and at birth, the breakdown along party lines is hardly a surprise. With Democrats, the breakdown is (39/20/31). I guess what you should take from this is that life at conception Democrats have an 8-point lead over those who feel it begins at birth. Independents have a breakdown of (52/22/13), and Republicans have the strongest numbers regarding life at conception (71/17/7).

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Concerning racial attitudes, Whites and Blacks have majority views that life begins at conception, with 53 percent and 52 percent respectively. A plurality of Hispanics–42 percent–agree, though 26 percent say it’s when the baby if able to live outside the womb. Nineteen percent say when the child is born. One would think that the numbers would be higher given Hispanics’ religious roots, especially those who are Catholic. Then again, voting blocs aren’t monolithic, and that goes especially for Hispanics in America.

Overall, late term abortion has never been popular, which is why it’s all the more frustrating that House Republicans tripped up badly in January when they tried to pass a federal law banning abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy. It’s a popular position. More women support 20-week abortion ban laws than men. Around 60 percent of American women support such measures. In fact, as Mary wrote in 2013, pretty much everyone who isn’t a liberal–or non-religious–supports 20-week bans on abortion.

The sample size for the YouGov poll was 1,000 people.