77% of Louisiana residents support legal abortions after rape, survey finds

Abortion rights protestors' signs

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Seventy-seven percent of Louisiana residents say a woman should be able to obtain a legal abortion if she became pregnant after being raped, according to an LSU survey released Thursday.

That finding is at odds with Louisiana’s near-total ban on abortions. Earlier this month, a state House committee rejected a bill that would have added exceptions for cases of rape and incest to Louisiana’s abortion ban, one of the strictest in the country. Lawmakers shot down the bill in a 10-5 vote.

The final installment of the Louisiana Survey, conducted by LSU’s Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs, shows a continuing shift in Louisiana residents’ attitudes toward abortion in recent years.

Fifty-two percent of the people interviewed lean toward abortion being legalized. Eighty-five percent say that a woman should be able to obtain an abortion if her life is seriously threatened due to pregnancy, and two-thirds say abortion should be legal if there is a strong chance of the child having a lethal birth defect.

In a survey in 2016, 40% of the people interviewed said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 55% said it should be illegal in all or most cases. Today, these opinions have nearly reversed, with 52% saying abortion should be legal and 44% saying it should be illegal.

Twenty-three percent of participants think abortion should be legal in all cases, and only 15% think it should be illegal in all cases.

Participants identifying as Democrats have shown the most dramatic shift in abortion attitudes in recent years. In 2016, 42% of Democrats in Louisiana said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Today, just 15% say abortion should be illegal.

By contrast, 69% of Republicans say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. A majority of participants identifying as independent say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

The survey results are based on responses from 500 adult Louisiana residents during telephone interviews conducted between March 22 and April 4. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.8 percentage points.

On another sensitive topic, 70% of those surveyed support legally allowing people to possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, and just 30% oppose it, marking a significant increase in support over the past decade. In 2013, only 42% of participants supported marijuana legalization for recreational use, and 56% opposed it.

Ninety percent of participants now support the legal possession of marijuana for medical purposes.

This year’s survey also shows a widening ideological gap between the Democratic and Republican parties in Louisiana. Respondents were asked to place themselves and the Democratic and Republican parties on a seven-point spectrum of political ideology from very liberal to very conservative.

Nearly half of Democratic survey participants say the Republican Party is very conservative, while just 16% of Republican interviewed identify their party as very conservative. Twenty-nine percent of Republican participants see the Democratic Party as very liberal, but only 4% of Democratic participants identify their party as very liberal.

Democrats and Republicans also hold opposite views on whether Medicaid and private health insurance companies should cover the cost of abortion.

Among Democratic participants, 74% support Medicaid coverage for abortion, and 68% support requiring insurance companies to cover the cost for their policyholders. Among Republican participants, 68% oppose Medicaid coverage, and 61% oppose private insurance coverage.

Despite this contrast, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans oppose making it illegal to provide assistance for a woman to get an abortion, such as providing money or transportation, or for women in Louisiana to cross state lines to obtain an abortion.

A slim majority of all respondents also say in this year’s survey that a woman should not be able to obtain a legal abortion if the reason she is seeking one is that she does not want or cannot afford any more children.

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