Poll: Nearly 75 percent oppose expansion of abortion

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PROVIDENCE — Large majorities of Rhode Islanders oppose late-term abortions, including the procedure known as partial-birth abortion, according to a new public policy poll commissioned by the Rhode Island Right to Life Committee.

The poll, which was conducted by Cygnal, a national public opinion and research firm, found that most Rhode Island residents believe that job creation, the economy and taxes should be state legislators’ highest priority. Only 7 percent listed abortion.

“I’m not not surprised with the overwhelming opposition to late term abortion in Rhode Island. This is a fact that we’ve seen through multiple annual polls conducted through groups like Marist, Pew and Gallup,” said Barth Bracy, executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life.

“Rhode Islanders are similar to the rest of Americans in their objective horror to abortions up to birth,” Bracy said.

The new poll, which was released on Feb. 14, was conducted while state lawmakers in the Rhode Island General Assembly review a pair of bills in the House and one in the Senate that pro-life activists warn would do away with all restrictions on abortion, including the state’s ban on partial-birth abortion.

The bills’ sponsors and supporters argue the legislation is needed to codify Roe v. Wade’s protections of legal abortion in state law, as well as to repeal several decades-old Rhode Island laws that they say are “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

But a recent legal analysis by attorney Paul Benjamin Linton, a lawyer who served as general counsel of Americans United for Life, suggests that the legislation would turn Rhode Island into “an abortion haven” where virtually any unborn child could be killed up until the moment of birth, with the state given no recourse to restrict or regulate abortion facilities.

If passed into law, Linton warned that abortions “could be performed in Rhode Island throughout all nine months of pregnancy, regardless of the reason for which the abortion was sought.”

Several bishops and Catholic leaders across the country have decried similar legislation that has been proposed in other states, including Virginia, New Jersey and New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act on Jan. 22. That law goes beyond codifying Roe v. Wade to allowing late-term abortions in some circumstances.

In a Feb. 12 public letter to the priests and lay faithful in Rhode Island, Father Bernard A. Healey, director of the Rhode Island Catholic Conference, said the bills at the Rhode Island State House would go “far beyond” codifying existing federal law on abortion.

“Our advocacy against these bills is ongoing but there is mounting pressure from the well-financed pro-abortion lobby and their many elected allies at the General Assembly and in state government to bring these bills to a vote,” wrote Father Healey, who mentioned that Rhode Island Right to Life is leading an online petition drive against the bills.

The new poll that Rhode Island Right to Life commissioned surveyed 700 Rhode Island residents. According to data provided by Cygnal, the survey was evenly split among respondents who described themselves as liberal, conservative or moderate in their politics.

The poll found that 73.8 percent of Rhode Islanders oppose legislation that allows an abortion up until the moment of birth, with 64.6 percent of the respondents saying they “strongly” oppose it.

The data also suggests that 68.9 percent of state residents oppose — 56.4 percent “strongly” oppose — legislation that allows partial-birth abortion. More than 63 percent of Rhode Islanders also said they do not support bills that would allow second-trimester abortions in all situations and that would remove restrictions as to who can perform abortions.

Bracy said the new polling undercuts arguments made by the bills’ supporters that public opinion is in their favor.

“The other side has been lying about what these bills do and lying about public support,” Bracy said.

In his letter, Father Healey asked for prayers in parishes, for people to sign the online petition against the legislation, and for priests to encourage the faithful to write letters to their elected representatives and local media outlets to express their opposition to the “radical expansion of abortion in our state.”

“Pray, act and advocate is what we each of us is called to do as faithful citizens,” wrote Father Healey, who thanked the faithful for their efforts “in protecting the lives of the unborn at this critical time for our state and nation.”