Poll shows wide acceptance of women's right to choose

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Two-thirds of the public believe abortion should be made legally available for all who want it - a 10 per cent increase on 1980, according to the latest opinion poll on the issue, published yesterday. An even larger majority of the public support the right to an abortion where the woman's life or health are in danger or if she has been raped.

Although there is a significant drop in the number of people backing abortion where it is likely the baby would be born mentally or physically handicapped, there is still support from more than two-thirds of the public.

The poll, described as the most definitive study of public attitudes to abortion since 1980, was carried out by MORI. It was commissioned by the Birth Control Trust, which supports the right of women to make their own choices about pregnancy and abortion.

There was little difference between the views of men and women. Those aged 25-34 were most likely to back the right to an abortion. And the more affluent an individual was, the more likely he or she was to agree with abortion, although the difference between social classes was not particularly marked.

Surprisingly, 50 per cent of Roman Catholics backed the right to an abortion - contravening the Church's teaching on the matter, compared with 38 per cent who disagreed.