Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum reflects on the impressive turnout at San Francisco’s recent Walk for Life:
How frustrating it must be for [pro-choicers] to see history moving decisively (despite the setbacks of the current regime in Washington) in the pro-life direction.
Howbutwhatinthewhat? Here, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, is a snapshot of current opinion:
The results of the recent Pew Research Center poll are probably even more authoritative and also show robust public support for Roe v. Wade. The PRC’s numbers have caused quite a stir on conservative Catholic websites. Contributors to online magazines like The Catholic Thing, Crisis, and First Things have been scrambling to somehow spin or deny the fact that only 29% of Americans want to see the 1973 ruling completely overturned, while 63% support it. The data also reveal a slow but steady increase in support over the past 20 years, from 60% in 1992 to the current 63%. Opposition has declined more significantly during that period, from 34% to the current 29%.
The Church’s propaganda elves are working 24-7 to convince us that the PRC report is flawed. Roe v. Wade‘s provisions are not widely understood, they say, or the PRC’s polling questions were misleading. Or they bring in other polling data—some out-of-date and some from dubious sources—to confuse the issue.
Thus, Kenneth D. Whitehead, writing for Crisis Magazine, claims that “many people [including the poll respondents] do not understand that Roe v. Wade actually allows abortion on demand throughout the entire length of a pregnancy for any reason or for no reason.”
This is demonstrably false. Roe’s central holding is that abortions are permissable until the fetus is viable (from 24 to 28 weeks, or about six to seven months). After that, the State may proscribe abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.
Here’s what the law actually says:
During the first trimester, “the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician.”
After the first trimester,”the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.”
After viability, which occurs at around the beginning of the third trimester, “the State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”
If Whitehead can sow enough distrust of the Pew findings, he may be able to persuade us that a poll conducted by the Knights of Columbus is more reliable. Yes, you heard me right. He’s citing a Catholic fraternal service and lobbying organization that is famously dedicated to upholding Catholic teachings on abortion. Their finding is that “no less than 83 percent of Americans now favor some restrictions on abortion.” Even if reliable, this finding is not necessarily at odds with the PRC’s. Roe v. Wade does not, in fact, allow unrestricted access to abortions.
Jon A. Shields, writing for First Things (“Debating Roe’s Legacy,” 1/30/13) claims that (1) “young Americans are suddenly less pro-choice than older Americans,” and that (2) “young Americans are not only less pro-choice than any other age group, but they are also markedly less pro-choice than any young cohort in any previous decade.”
His first claim is false and the second is only half-true. While it appears to be true that Americans aged 18 to 29 are still trending slightly toward anti-abortion views, they are not currently “less pro-choice” than older Americans (if “pro-choice” is taken to mean supporting Roe v. Wade and if “older Americans” means “Americans older than 29”). Shields does not disclose the actual PRC numbers, which, at best, show a pro-choice lead of only one percentage point in only one of the three “older” cohorts (the 50-64 year-olds). And the difference between the support and opposition figures is still very significant in all four age cohorts:
Ages 18-29: 41 percentage points (difference).
Ages 30-49: 30 percentage points.
Ages 50-64: 43 percentage points.
Ages 65+: 16 percentage points.
(In all of these, the percentage supporting Roe v. Wade is the higher of the two.)
Using the PRC’s polling data, 68% of the 18-29 year-old cohort are opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade, compared to only 27% in favor. Note that in the next age cohort (30-49 years old), the figures are 61% and 31% respectively. Significantly, the 50-64 year-old cohort is slightly more opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade than the 18-29 group, with the numbers at 69% (opposed) and 26% (favoring).
No wonder Shields doesn’t show us the numbers.
Shields’s related claim was that young Americans (aged 18-29) are also “markedly less pro-choice than any young cohort in any previous decade.” This is true only if we replace the word “markedly” with “slightly.” While it is true that the 2009 Gallup poll showed a 12-percentage-point decline in the numbers of young pro-choice Americans since the early nineties (from 36% to 24%), that number had not declined at all since the eighties, and it had dropped only two percentage points since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
I think we would be entitled to conclude that young Americans’ position on reproductive choice has not significantly changed since Roe v. Wade. What is perhaps more significant is the slow but steadily growing overall support for the ruling.
View PRC’s “Abortion Support slideshow” here.
Read: “Roe v. Wade at 40: Most Oppose Overturning Abortion Decision” (PRC, January 11, 2013)