That Quinnipiac Poll
Published on June 8th, 2013
by Kathleen M. Gallagher
The Quinnipiac University poll released on June 6 got a lot of headlines. “More than two-thirds of voters support Cuomo’s abortion proposal” screamed the NY Post. Was I reading that right? How could that be?
The answer is complex, so stay with me on this one.
First, the poll was deceptive in failing to define terms. It surveyed the question “Do you support making it legal for a woman to have a late-term abortion if her health is at risk?” Now what do you think of when you hear the term “health is at risk?” Cancer? Gestational diabetes? Preeclampsia? Most of us would think of something more than the common cold, right?
Well, the U.S. Supreme Court has defined “health” in regard to abortion, and it’s not what most people think. In the 1973 companion case to Roe v. Wade, the Court defined “health” as “…all factors relevant to the well-being of the patient…including physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and a woman’s age…”
So polling people’s attitudes about legalizing late-term abortion when a woman’s health is at risk is misleading at best. How would they feel about legalizing abortion for a woman who is eight months pregnant but just too stressed out to have a baby? Or a housewife who is expecting twins but only wants one child? According to the Court, each of those situations puts a mother’s “health at risk,” but I’d bet money most New Yorkers wouldn’t approve of those late-term abortions.
Second, the poll was incomplete. It didn’t ask New Yorkers about all of the Governor’s bill, only part of it. It’s unfair to say that 2/3 of New Yorkers back the Governor’s plan when they haven’t been informed of all the plan’s components. One part I’d bet they don’t support is the repeal of current law that says only a doctor may perform surgical abortions. The Governor’s plan would grant the Health Department the authority to decide who could do the surgery. Midwives? Nurse practitioners? Social workers? Who knows? It’s certainly not spelled out in the Governor’s bill.
Third, the Quinnipiac poll also asked respondents whether they thought abortion should be legal in all cases, most cases, few cases or no cases. Only 26% of voters said abortion should be legal in all cases, yet that is exactly what the Governor’s bill would do! The Women’s Equality Act would enshrine Roe v. Wade in New York law, allowing for virtual abortion-on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason. And it would virtually eliminate the possibility of any meaningful regulations on abortion such as parental notification or funding restrictions, which most voters enthusiastically support.
I don’t put too much weight in the Quinnipiac poll findings on the Governor’s abortion expansion plans. And you shouldn’t either.