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Americans weigh in on backing candidates who support certain abortion restrictions

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Women denied abortions face financial peril 01:06

More than half of Americans say they are more likely to favor candidates in 2020 who support abortion restrictions ranging from an outright ban up to allowing the procedure only in the first trimester, a new poll has found.

The Marist poll, which was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, found that 65% of Americans are likely to vote for a candidate who believes abortion should be outlawed after the first three months of a pregnancy; allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother; or not permitted under any circumstance.

Twenty-five percent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who believes abortion should be available at any point during a pregnancy, and 9% said they would back a candidate who thinks the procedure should be allowed only in the first six months of a pregnancy. 

When it comes to how Americans characterize their views on abortion, 55% consider themselves pro-choice and 40% say they are pro-life. Public attitudes abortion have diverged in the last year, as a February 2019 poll found Americans were as likely to consider themselves pro-life — 47% — as they were pro-choice. 

The survey also found that seven in 10 Americans support limiting abortion to the first trimester of a pregnancy. Twenty-one percent believe the procedure should be available to a woman at any point during her pregnancy.

By comparison, a May 2019 poll from CBS News found that 34% of Americans believe abortion should be available but under more stringent limits, while 44% said the procedure should be generally available.

A June 2018 poll from Gallup that measured Americans' attitudes about abortion on a trimester basis found 60% of U.S. adults think abortion should be legal in the first three months of a pregnancy. Support for abortion in the second trimester falls to 28%, Gallup found.

The abortion debate is likely to emerge as a flashpoint in the 2020 presidential election as the Supreme Court gears up to hear a major case on the issue and abortion advocates prepare for more restrictions at the state level.

Planned Parenthood announced a $45 million investment last week to support candidates at all levels in the 2020 elections who back abortion rights and are aiming their efforts at voters in nine battleground states.

On the other side of the debate, Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, said last year it intends to spend $41 million this election cycle "expanding to priority states, working closely with local allies on the most ambitions pro-life legislative agenda yet."

In 2019, state lawmakers introduced more than 300 measures aimed at imposing restrictions on abortion and 12 states enacted some type of an abortion ban, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Laws banning abortion, however, have been blocked by the federal courts.

Efforts are expected to continue in 2020, with South Carolina considering a six-week ban on abortion and Tennessee pushing to prohibit the procedure entirely if Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

In March, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The measure is similar to a Texas law struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016. But in the years since, the makeup of the high court has changed, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, the longtime swing vote, in 2018.

The Marist poll of 1,237 adults was conducted from January 7 to January 12, with a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points.

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