Virginia's Board of Health will meet Thursday to decide whether to impose stricter regulations on the clinics that provide abortions in the Commonwealth.
Some view Virginia's proposed regulations on abortion clinics as a strictly pro-choice versus pro-life debate, but results from a new poll released by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute reveal a more complex reality.
Peter Brown, the assistant director of the polling institute, says the survey shows that a majority of Virginians believe in the right to have an abortion, by a margin of 50 to 41 percent.
"Nevertheless, even though half are in favor of abortion rights, they seem to be in favor of the new law that would set new standards for abortion clinics," he says.
In fact, the survey shows that proponents of the new rules are winning the debate handily, with 55 percent of Virginians supporting the changes and just 22 percent opposing them. The new regulations would hold abortion clinics to the same safety and building standards as hospitals, and likely force many to close.
Opponents say the measure is a backdoor anti-abortion law, but George Mason University communications professor Steven Farnsworth says the poll shows opponents have done a lackluster job in convincing voters of that idea.
"This poll demonstrates quite clearly that people in opposition to the tighter regulation of abortion clinics, have not made their case to the state," says Farnsworth.
The poll, which surveyed more than 1,300 voters, showed 50 percent of Virginians see the new rules as necessary to protect the health of women -- compared to 33 percent who see the rules as designed to put abortion clinics out of business.