At first glance, Gallup's latest polling data on Americans' attitudes on abortions says yes -- and might even deal a slight blow to pro-lifers, whose numbers have fallen in the minority since last year. (49% of Americans say they are pro-choice, and 45% say they are pro-life -- just two years ago, pro-lifers were in the majority, with nearly a 10 percentage-point difference between the two).
Over on his blog at CatholicVote.org, however, Thomas Peters spells out three lessons from the poll -- and what talking points pro-lifers in the U.S. can pull from it.
For instance, beyond the simple question asking Americans to self-identify as either pro-life or pro-choice, it's clear that the vast majority of the country yet believes abortion should be legal only under certain -- if any -- circumstances. Just about a quarter (27%) of Americans say othewise, essentially arguing for a woman's unfettered access to abortion. The rest of the country disagrees with them.
Those who fell in the middle category -- that abortion should be legal only under circumstances -- were asked to further define their views: should the practice be legal under most, or few, circumstances? 61% answered "few," if any. Only 37% said "any," or "most."
Finally, despite their tolerance for the practice, most Americans still believe abortion is morally wrong, 51%-39%. Peters interprets the seeming disconnect this way:
Those who believe in their heart abortion is wrong but still support it as public policy are the most open to our arguments – and to be swayed to the side of life. The critical question becomes, for this audience, how to translate their moral sense about abortion into a public stand.
The practical arguments Peters puts forward at the end of his post should be reasonable to anyone willing to look at our national conversation on abortion with an open mind. (As a side note, Carl Anderson develops a very similar argument for America's consensus against abortion on demand in Beyond a House Divided, released last summer). It's all too simplistic to say that Americans are split evenly on abortion. The truth is far more encouraging -- and gives pro-lifers the impetus to work so that our nation's laws on abortion follow the lead of what its citizens actually believe.
-- Elizabeth Hansen