How Much Public Support Does The Pro-Life Position Really Have?
Bill from INDC Journal (who has a great blog which I’d highly recommend) asks for someone who’s pro-life to talk about the implications of some abortion polling,
“For a thorny example, I think that it’s fair to state that a popular socially conservative goal is the repeal of Roe v Wade, followed by incremental legislation that will restrict (and theoretically eventually ban) abortion. But given the fact that public opinion is largely well-reflected in the current combination of judical and legislative public policy (Only 36% say Roe should be overturned, 66% believe first-term abortions should be legal, 70% are against late-term abortions, nearly 90% of abortions take place in the first trimester), much of the social right’s rhetoric and noises about an end to abortion are strategically dissonant; I can’t even recall the last time that I witnessed a pro-life commentator tackle the fundamental challenge of these statistics in lieu of simply railing against the judicial activism of Roe. Depending on the measure, why do 2/3 of Americans disagree with a strident pro-life agenda and nearly 8-in-10 oppose an outright ban? And what’s really the best way to address that?
Let me begin by saying — respectfully — that I believe Bill’s premise is flawed. “(P)ublic opinion is” (not) “largely well-reflected in the current combination of judical and legislative public policy.”
Were the public’s views on abortion accurately reflected by “current combination of judical and legislative public policy,” then having Roe v. Wade passed in the first place would have made little difference and whether it was overturned or not would be a matter of little consequence. Yet, “NARAL Pro-Choice America projected that…”
“…19 states would quickly outlaw abortion, and 19 more might follow suit, if Roe v. Wade were overturned. This could happen if two of the justices on the nine-member Supreme Court who support abortion rights departed and were replaced by justices opposing abortions.”
Sure they’re a pro-abortion group so they could be inflating the numbers a bit, but given the lay of the land before Roe. v. Wade came into effect, I wouldn’t be surprised if their numbers are roughly accurate…
“Prior to Roe v. Wade, abortion was illegal in nearly two-thirds of the states except in cases where it was necessary to save the life of the mother. In those states (where) it was legal, it was only available under very limited circumstances.
Now, are (and were) all these state legislatures full of politicians who don’t understand or care what the people of their states really want? That’s the impression you’d get from looking at the polling numbers Bill presented, right?
Well, the reality is that the answers you get when you do abortion polling vary wildly depending on the question that’s asked and the language that’s used. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about,
“For example, one 1980 poll (**From Market Opinion Research, Bailey and Deardourff, (1981). Conducted for the National Abortion Rights Action League**) asked similar questions, worded in two different ways:
“Do you think there should be an amendment to the Constitution prohibiting abortions, or shouldn’t there be such an amendment?” Those in favor of an amendment: 29%; opposed 67%. Here, the pollsters used the term “abortion” which they probably selected as the most emotionally neutral term that they could find.
“Do you believe there should be an amendment to the Constitution protecting the life of the unborn child, or shouldn’t there be such an amendment?” In favor of an amendment: 50%; opposed 34%. Here, the implication is that an abortion kills a child.
Because of the fluctuations in the numbers, it’s very difficult to get a true read on the public’s feelings about abortion based on poll numbers. However, I believe the pro-life movement has a small but significant edge in raw numbers and passion for what we believe in, over the pro-abortion folks. That’s why abortions would likely be hard to come by if state legislatures were allowed to vote on the issue and it also explains why,
“The new chairman of the US Democratic Party, Howard Dean, cautioned his party members to avoid using the term “pro-choice” when referring to themselves, in order not to alienate potential conservative voters.
Dean, making the comments Thursday at the Democratic National Committee meeting, said, “I don’t think we should use ‘pro-choice’,” because it brands Democrats as too pro-abortion, according to a New York Post report.”
You don’t see Dean’s counterpart Ken Mehlman telling Republicans not to talk about being pro-life do you?
So personally, I’m looking forward to the day that Roe v. Wade is finally overturned and not just because it’s pure judicial activism masquerading as constitutional law. I believe that those of us who are pro-life are in a politically stronger position than the pro-abortion forces and more importantly, we have a moral responsibility to stand-up for the unborn children who are being snuffed out before they can stand-up for themselves.
Let the people who are pro-abortion worry about what happens after Roe v. Wade because once that day comes, it’s going to be all downhill for them on the issue from there on out.