Most people in Britain are willing to modify existing guidelines related to the funding of abortions in the country, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative sample of 2,018 British adults, three-in-ten respondents (30%) think the National Health Service (NHS) should fund abortions whenever they are requested, while a majority (56%) believe the NHS should only fund abortions in the event of medical emergencies, and six per cent want the NHS to never fund abortions.

In the United Kingdom, it is only legal to have an abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, provided that certain criteria are met. Almost half of Britons (48%) believe the time limit on abortion should be reduced to less than 24 weeks, just over a third (36%) think the current guidelines are adequate, and three per cent would extend the time limit to more than 24 weeks.

When asked about their personal feeling on abortion, three-in-ten respondents (31%) believe abortion should be permitted in all cases, while a slightly larger proportion (35%) would subject the procedure to greater restrictions than now. One-in-five Britons (21%) would permit abortion only in cases of rape, incest and to save the woman’s life, while one-in-twenty (5%) would allow pregnancy termination only to save the woman’s life.

A majority of Britons (57%) believe abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances, while one third (33%) think the procedure should be legal under any circumstances. Just four per cent of respondents would make abortion illegal under any circumstances.

Half of Britons (49%) believe women under the age of 18 should require the consent of their parents or legal guardians in order to have an abortion, and two-in-five (40%) think women in the United Kingdom have access to enough information about alternatives to abortion, such as adoption or counselling.

Respondents are divided on whether a debate on abortion is warranted, with 42 per cent saying that there is no point on re-opening this issue, and 40 per cent thinking a discussion on abortion in the UK is long overdue.

Gender Differences

The views of men and women do not go through any dramatic fluctuations on the personal feeling and legality questions. When it comes to the role of the NHS, men are more likely than women (59% to 53%) to endorse the idea of abortions only being funded in the event of medical emergencies. Male respondents are also more likely to call for women under the age of 18 to have the consent of their parents or legal guardians in order to have an abortion (52% to 45%).

The biggest gender gap is on the time limit question. Only one third of men (35%) would reduce it to less than 24 weeks, while three-in-five women (59%) are in favour of a reduction. Women are also more likely to call for re-opening the debate on abortion than men (44% to 37%).

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Mario Canseco, Vice President, Angus Reid Public Opinion
+877 730 3570

Methodology: From March 6 to March 7, 2012, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 2,018 randomly selected British adults who are Springboard UK panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of Great Britain. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.