Objective: To investigate community attitudes to abortion, including views on whether doctors should face sanctions for performing late abortion in a range of clinical and social situations.
Design, setting and participants: An anonymous online survey of 1050 Australians aged 18 years or older (stratified by sex, age and location) using contextualised questions, conducted between 28 and 31 July 2008.
Main outcome measures: Attitudes to abortion, particularly after 24 weeks' gestation.
Results: Our study showed a high level of support for access to early abortion; 87% of respondents indicated that abortion should be lawful in the first trimester (61% unconditionally and 26% depending on the circumstances). In most of the clinical and social circumstances described in our survey, a majority of respondents indicated that doctors should not face professional sanctions for performing abortion after 24 weeks' gestation.
Conclusions: Our data show that a majority of Australians support laws which enable women to access abortion services after 24 weeks' gestation, and that support varies depending on circumstances. Simple yes/no polls may give a misleading picture of public opinion.