CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sixty percent of Americans support access to abortion at 20 weeks in severe cases, according to a new poll.
Hart Research Associates conducted the nationwide poll on behalf of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, an abortion rights advocate group. The results show several circumstances under which voters would consider abortion acceptable.
Several states ban abortion at 20 weeks, said Pam Van Horn, West Virginia public affairs director for Planned Parenthood Health Systems. She said abortions at that stage of pregnancy are usually due to serious situations.
The poll surveyed 1,011 registered voters from both major parties.
According to a memo released by Hart Research Associates, "There is a broad consensus that women should have access to abortion after 20 weeks under several key circumstances.
"We tested voters' views about these circumstances because medical groups say they are the common reasons women need access to abortion after 20 weeks — and because abortion in these circumstances would be illegal under bans passed by some states and by the U.S. House of Representatives."
Among the findings:
* Sixty-six percent said abortions should be legal after 20 weeks if a woman's doctor determines she could suffer serious, long-lasting health problems if she carried the pregnancy to term.
* Sixty-one percent gave approval if a doctor determines the fetus is not yet viable and the woman and her family determine her health and personal circumstances are such that she should not continue her pregnancy. The same number approved of abortion at that stage if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.
* Fifty-eight percent 58 percent said abortions should be legal after 20 weeks if the fetus has severe abnormalities that would cause fetal death or extreme disability.
Abortion after 20 weeks is rare.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 99 percent of abortions in the United States occurred before 21 weeks in 2009. Sixty-four percent of abortions were performed before 8 weeks, and 91.7 percent were performed at 13 weeks.
West Virginia's two abortion care providers, both of which are located in Charleston, provide elective abortion care just short of 20 weeks.
According to their respective websites, the Women's Health Center on the city's West Side provides elective abortion care through 16 weeks. Kanawha Surgicenter, located in Kanawha City, provides it through 18 weeks.
According to the CDC, in 2009, the most recent year for comprehensive data, there were six abortions performed in West Virginia after 20 weeks of gestation. These later procedures normally are performed in hospitals, according to a release.
"This procedure is so rare," Van Horn said. "After 20 weeks, it's almost inevitably a very serious situation — the baby may not be able to survive or the mother's health is at extreme risk. So we're making sure these procedures remain safe and legal for every woman in the state and every man who cares about her."
The House of Representatives passed a bill 228 to 196 in June that prohibits abortions at that stage. It has been referred to a Senate committee, where it has about a 14 percent chance of being enacted, according to GovTrack.
"The margins in opposition to these bans are so significant that we think it is very likely that they would be voted down in a popular referendum in virtually any state of the country, after people have had a chance to learn about the real-world consequences of them," wrote Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates.
"Moreover, our survey shows that the overwhelming majority of voters across party lines say this is the wrong issue for Congress and state legislators to be spending time on."