Proportion of 'Pro-Life' Americans Up This Year

The number of self-described "pro-life" Americans has increased since late last year and more visibly in 2009, a new USA Today/Gallup survey reveals.

Conducted in mid-July, the survey found 47 percent of Americans called themselves "pro-life," compared to 46 percent who identified themselves as "pro-choice." These latest figures reflect a loss for the pro-life camp when compared to a similar Gallup survey in May when 51 percent of Americans said they are pro-life and 42 percent said they are pro-choice.

But July's very slight pro-life advantage over the pro-choice position is still much higher than all the similar Gallup Poll survey results from 1995 to 2008, during which the majority of Americans had described themselves as "pro-choice."

America's recent pro-life leaning position began around when Barack Obama was named President-elect, according to the Gallup graphs. The country hit its pro-life peak in May after heavy media coverage about the University of Notre Dame's invitation of President Obama reignited the abortion debate.

Previously, from 1995 to 2008, the majority of Americans had described themselves as "pro-choice." The average figure for the 18 Gallup surveys conducted from 1995 to 2008 on the topic are 49 percent for the pro-choice position and 42 percent for the pro-life position.

Yet while most Americans would describe themselves as pro-life now, the overwhelming majority takes a middle position when it comes to exceptions for when abortion should be legal.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said abortion should be legal under certain circumstances. By comparison, around 20 percent took either of the extreme positions of abortions being legal under any circumstances (21 percent) and illegal in all circumstances (18 percent).

The survey findings, released Tuesday, come at a time when lawmakers in Washington as well as American citizens are intensely debating whether the new government-sponsored heath insurance plan should cover abortions.

With emotions running high on both sides of the argument, some experts wonder if disagreement over tax dollar-funded abortions will derail the ambitious health care overhaul.

President Obama has stated that health care reform is his highest domestic policy agenda, and the White House has pressed Democratic lawmakers to back the bill.

Gallup Poll commented that the latest shift in America's abortion views reflects the increase in the number of Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) who call themselves pro-life. Over the past year, the number of pro-life Republicans has risen by nearly 10 points, from 60 percent to 68 percent.

The survey was conducted using telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults on July 17-19.