Number of pro-choicers at historic low

It would seem that pro-lifers are winning the argument.  Except that a large number of pro-lifers evidently believe that abortion should be legal.

The percentage of Americans who identify themselves as “pro-choice” is at the lowest point ever measured by Gallup, according to a new survey released Wednesday.

A record-low 41 percent now identify themselves as “pro-choice,” down from 47 percent last July and 1 percentage point down from the previous record low of 42 percent, set in May 2009. As recently as 2006, 51 percent of Americans described themselves as “pro-choice.”

Meanwhile, 50 percent of Americans now consider themselves “pro-life,” one point below Gallup’s record high on the measure.

“Gallup began asking Americans to define themselves as pro-choice or pro-life on abortion in 1995, and since then, identification with the labels has shifted from a wide lead for the pro-choice position in the mid-1990s, to a generally narrower lead for “pro-choice” — from 1998 through 2008 — to a close division between the two positions since 2009,” explains the polling firm.

“Pro-life” identification is up among all three U.S. political affiliations: 72 percent of Republicans are “pro-life,” up from 68 percent last year; 47 percent of independents are, compared with 41 percent last year; and 34 percent of Democrats are, compared with 27 percent last year.

In terms of morality, a slight majority — 51 percent — of Americans consider abortion morally wrong, while 38 percent say that it is morally acceptable — virtually unchanged to views on the matter in May 2011.

Views on legality are slightly different: 72 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal; 52 percent believe it should be legal under certain circumstances; and 20 percent believe it should be legal under all circumstances. A quarter of the American population believes abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

via Poll: Record low are ‘pro-choice’ – Tim Mak – POLITICO.com.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael B.

    “It would seem that pro-lifers are winning the argument. Except that a large number of pro-lifers evidently believe that abortion should be legal.”

    The entire premise of the pro-life cause is that there is no moral difference between a fetus and a newborn baby. As pro-lifers would put it, killing of the unborn is no different than killing of the born. The problem for pro-lifers is the hard-cases. Once a pro-lifer admits that abortion is permissible under some circumstances, such as life of the mother or rape, they’ve effectively shattered their own premise. After all, why would it be okay to kill a child because his father is a rapist? And what kind of mother would kill her own child to save her own life? Futhermore, they have legitimized a need for abortion doctors, because after all abortion is okay in some circumstances.

    Allowing abortion in the hard-cases is also a pro-life marketing failure. Anyone who knows something about marketing knows that you are careful not to give your consumer too many choices. If you do, the consumer decides not to decide. As it is, people are bogged down in this exception and that exception. If I were in charge of the pro-life movement, I would say here is the deal: abortion will be legal in every case, or it will be legal in no cases.

  • Michael B.

    “It would seem that pro-lifers are winning the argument. Except that a large number of pro-lifers evidently believe that abortion should be legal.”

    The entire premise of the pro-life cause is that there is no moral difference between a fetus and a newborn baby. As pro-lifers would put it, killing of the unborn is no different than killing of the born. The problem for pro-lifers is the hard-cases. Once a pro-lifer admits that abortion is permissible under some circumstances, such as life of the mother or rape, they’ve effectively shattered their own premise. After all, why would it be okay to kill a child because his father is a rapist? And what kind of mother would kill her own child to save her own life? Futhermore, they have legitimized a need for abortion doctors, because after all abortion is okay in some circumstances.

    Allowing abortion in the hard-cases is also a pro-life marketing failure. Anyone who knows something about marketing knows that you are careful not to give your consumer too many choices. If you do, the consumer decides not to decide. As it is, people are bogged down in this exception and that exception. If I were in charge of the pro-life movement, I would say here is the deal: abortion will be legal in every case, or it will be legal in no cases.

  • formerly just steve

    Michael B. “If I were in charge of the pro-life movement, I would say here is the deal: abortion will be legal in every case, or it will be legal in no cases.”

    There are hard cases on both sides of the debate. If abortion is legal in some instances, why isn’t it legal through the entire pregnancy? Why isn’t Singer correct and the ability to take your child’s life extends beyond the womb? At some point, everyone who says there should be exceptions is drawing an arbitrary line in the sand. But drawing that line at the point of risk to the mother’s life is not the same as saying “abortion is okay in some circumstances”. Its saying abortion should be legal in some circumstances. Not the same thing. I don’t know any pro-lifers who would say it’s “okay” to take the life of a child when the mother’s life is at risk but I know many who would say that they life of the mother and the responsibility of the mother to the family she already has carries enough moral weight that abortion should be an option when her life is at risk.

  • formerly just steve

    Michael B. “If I were in charge of the pro-life movement, I would say here is the deal: abortion will be legal in every case, or it will be legal in no cases.”

    There are hard cases on both sides of the debate. If abortion is legal in some instances, why isn’t it legal through the entire pregnancy? Why isn’t Singer correct and the ability to take your child’s life extends beyond the womb? At some point, everyone who says there should be exceptions is drawing an arbitrary line in the sand. But drawing that line at the point of risk to the mother’s life is not the same as saying “abortion is okay in some circumstances”. Its saying abortion should be legal in some circumstances. Not the same thing. I don’t know any pro-lifers who would say it’s “okay” to take the life of a child when the mother’s life is at risk but I know many who would say that they life of the mother and the responsibility of the mother to the family she already has carries enough moral weight that abortion should be an option when her life is at risk.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    52% believe abortion should be legal “under certain circumstances.”

    It would be helpful if the study broke out those certain circumstances. Otherwise, it’s just a useless statistic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    52% believe abortion should be legal “under certain circumstances.”

    It would be helpful if the study broke out those certain circumstances. Otherwise, it’s just a useless statistic.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I think much of the legal under certain circumstances thought is only the result of people not wanting to sound like a jerk.

    Truly the Kobayashi Maru scenario, of life of mother or life of child, should be removed from the whole discussion. Neither choice is truly a moral choice and is also quite rare.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I think much of the legal under certain circumstances thought is only the result of people not wanting to sound like a jerk.

    Truly the Kobayashi Maru scenario, of life of mother or life of child, should be removed from the whole discussion. Neither choice is truly a moral choice and is also quite rare.

  • DonS

    This poll evidences what has been clear to many of us for quite some time, and which has shown up as a trend in previous polls — people, especially younger people, increasingly recognize the moral tragedy of abortion on demand, particularly when that abortion is merely for the convenience of the mother.

    It’s a process to help people understand that life begins when God first quickens a fetus in the womb, but it was the radical feminists’ insistence that as long as the baby’s head hasn’t crossed the threshold of exiting the birth canal, you can murder the baby, that lost the fight for those feminists. Late term abortions are hideous to almost everyone, intuitively, and helped to reveal abortionists and abortion supporters for who they are — murderers. It will take continued education and increasingly improved technology to help people understand the life within a womb even during the earliest days of pregnancy, and that disabled children are also God’s gifts to man, and have equal value in His eyes. But we are moving in the right direction, apparently.

  • DonS

    This poll evidences what has been clear to many of us for quite some time, and which has shown up as a trend in previous polls — people, especially younger people, increasingly recognize the moral tragedy of abortion on demand, particularly when that abortion is merely for the convenience of the mother.

    It’s a process to help people understand that life begins when God first quickens a fetus in the womb, but it was the radical feminists’ insistence that as long as the baby’s head hasn’t crossed the threshold of exiting the birth canal, you can murder the baby, that lost the fight for those feminists. Late term abortions are hideous to almost everyone, intuitively, and helped to reveal abortionists and abortion supporters for who they are — murderers. It will take continued education and increasingly improved technology to help people understand the life within a womb even during the earliest days of pregnancy, and that disabled children are also God’s gifts to man, and have equal value in His eyes. But we are moving in the right direction, apparently.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    I think this is an example of a growing trend of irrationality in our culture. We are observing a generation of young people who want to associate with a certain label for sentimental reasons, while self-defining their own position under that label. This is one reason why theological orthodoxy is increasingly rare. People want a label (conservative, Lutheran, Baptist, maybe evangelical) because of the emotional shadow it casts upon the user (I’m a fill-in-the-blank; you can trust me), but they don’t want to adopt the ideas that such a label entails. This is how we end up with “conservative Republican” candidates who are fighting tooth-and-nail to unseat FDR.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    I think this is an example of a growing trend of irrationality in our culture. We are observing a generation of young people who want to associate with a certain label for sentimental reasons, while self-defining their own position under that label. This is one reason why theological orthodoxy is increasingly rare. People want a label (conservative, Lutheran, Baptist, maybe evangelical) because of the emotional shadow it casts upon the user (I’m a fill-in-the-blank; you can trust me), but they don’t want to adopt the ideas that such a label entails. This is how we end up with “conservative Republican” candidates who are fighting tooth-and-nail to unseat FDR.

  • http://deepeningwaters.com JD Loofbourrow

    I agree. All I get from these stats is that 72% of the people that were polled were pro-choice. 52% don’t like abortion but they think it should be legal for some reason. That is what pro choice is; it’s supposed to be a “middle ground” between pro abortion and pro life. But of course, as these stats demonstrate, a middle ground on this debate is really non-existent. As Michael B correctly pointed out, its all or nothing; it’s life or death. That may sound like and over simplification but at the end of the day, it seems to me, that is how this ends up.

    If it is a question of the mother or the baby I say, do what you can to save both, if you lose one, at least you did what you could to promote and save life. In that situation there really are no easy answers, all you can do is all you can do.

    I also think it’s strange that the “headlight post” got over 50 comments but this one only got 7 (so far). There is an interesting stat.

  • http://deepeningwaters.com JD Loofbourrow

    I agree. All I get from these stats is that 72% of the people that were polled were pro-choice. 52% don’t like abortion but they think it should be legal for some reason. That is what pro choice is; it’s supposed to be a “middle ground” between pro abortion and pro life. But of course, as these stats demonstrate, a middle ground on this debate is really non-existent. As Michael B correctly pointed out, its all or nothing; it’s life or death. That may sound like and over simplification but at the end of the day, it seems to me, that is how this ends up.

    If it is a question of the mother or the baby I say, do what you can to save both, if you lose one, at least you did what you could to promote and save life. In that situation there really are no easy answers, all you can do is all you can do.

    I also think it’s strange that the “headlight post” got over 50 comments but this one only got 7 (so far). There is an interesting stat.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I think much of the legal under certain circumstances thought is only the result of people not wanting to sound like a jerk.”

    Probably not. Look at Europe and South America where abortion is heavily restricted.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I think much of the legal under certain circumstances thought is only the result of people not wanting to sound like a jerk.”

    Probably not. Look at Europe and South America where abortion is heavily restricted.

  • helen

    JD @ 7
    I also think it’s strange that the “headlight post” got over 50 comments but this one only got 7 (so far). There is an interesting stat.

    Most of us will never have an abortion.

    Most of us have probably had a heavy foot at some time or other. :(

  • helen

    JD @ 7
    I also think it’s strange that the “headlight post” got over 50 comments but this one only got 7 (so far). There is an interesting stat.

    Most of us will never have an abortion.

    Most of us have probably had a heavy foot at some time or other. :(

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    That is what pro choice is; it’s supposed to be a “middle ground” between pro abortion and pro life. But of course, as these stats demonstrate, a middle ground on this debate is really non-existent. As Michael B correctly pointed out, its all or nothing; it’s life or death.

    Reminds me of President Kennedy channeling Dante on neutrality on great moral questions:

    “President Kennedy’s favorite quote was really from Dante, ‘The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.’” This supposed quotation is not actually in Dante’s work, but is based upon a similiar one. In the Inferno, Dante and his guide Virgil, on their way to Hell, pass by a group of dead souls outside the entrance to Hell. These individuals, when alive, remained neutral at a time of great moral decision. Virgil explains to Dante that these souls cannot enter either Heaven or Hell because they did not choose one side or another. They are therefore worse than the greatest sinners in Hell because they are repugnant to both God and Satan alike, and have been left to mourn their fate as insignificant beings neither hailed nor cursed in life or death, endlessly travailing below Heaven but outside of Hell.

    http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Ready-Reference/~/link.aspx?_id=4099B66534F44DAFAC5303C26D9C7977&_z=z

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    That is what pro choice is; it’s supposed to be a “middle ground” between pro abortion and pro life. But of course, as these stats demonstrate, a middle ground on this debate is really non-existent. As Michael B correctly pointed out, its all or nothing; it’s life or death.

    Reminds me of President Kennedy channeling Dante on neutrality on great moral questions:

    “President Kennedy’s favorite quote was really from Dante, ‘The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.’” This supposed quotation is not actually in Dante’s work, but is based upon a similiar one. In the Inferno, Dante and his guide Virgil, on their way to Hell, pass by a group of dead souls outside the entrance to Hell. These individuals, when alive, remained neutral at a time of great moral decision. Virgil explains to Dante that these souls cannot enter either Heaven or Hell because they did not choose one side or another. They are therefore worse than the greatest sinners in Hell because they are repugnant to both God and Satan alike, and have been left to mourn their fate as insignificant beings neither hailed nor cursed in life or death, endlessly travailing below Heaven but outside of Hell.

    http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Ready-Reference/~/link.aspx?_id=4099B66534F44DAFAC5303C26D9C7977&_z=z

  • Michael B.

    There’s a lot of people who masquerade as pro-life. The classic is “I think abortion is wrong, but I wouldn’t want to make that decision for somebody else”. Or “I would never want to see a woman who got an illegal abortion or her doctor to go to jail”. The entire premise of the pro-life movement is that a fetus is a person in every sense of the word, with an inalienable right to life. Put another way, if a woman who gets an abortion isn’t a child murderer, then pro-lifers are absolutely on the wrong side of this debate. If the fetus isn’t a child, then why should abortion be any more wicked than her removing a mole?

    Even if you allow abortion as an exception for health reasons — how serious of a health risk does it have to be? Every pregnancy has some percentage of a risk. And what happens when people want to open the door for emotional health?

    There is no room for middle ground on this debate, and there can be no compromise between pro-life and pro-choice.

  • Michael B.

    There’s a lot of people who masquerade as pro-life. The classic is “I think abortion is wrong, but I wouldn’t want to make that decision for somebody else”. Or “I would never want to see a woman who got an illegal abortion or her doctor to go to jail”. The entire premise of the pro-life movement is that a fetus is a person in every sense of the word, with an inalienable right to life. Put another way, if a woman who gets an abortion isn’t a child murderer, then pro-lifers are absolutely on the wrong side of this debate. If the fetus isn’t a child, then why should abortion be any more wicked than her removing a mole?

    Even if you allow abortion as an exception for health reasons — how serious of a health risk does it have to be? Every pregnancy has some percentage of a risk. And what happens when people want to open the door for emotional health?

    There is no room for middle ground on this debate, and there can be no compromise between pro-life and pro-choice.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Michael B asked (@11):

    Even if you allow abortion as an exception for health reasons — how serious of a health risk does it have to be? Every pregnancy has some percentage of a risk. And what happens when people want to open the door for emotional health?

    Look, this isn’t as difficult as you’re making it out to be, even if there is room for debate. If you are, in fact, discussing things from a pro-life stance, then at some point, your discussion is going to have to actually weigh in on the issue of life (that is, living vs. dying), not merely “health”. Which is why “emotional health” isn’t at all likely to be a factor.

    Otherwise, the issue will be one of preserving life. The more obvious case is one where doctors believe that the pregnancy’s progressing will cause the death of the mother (e.g. an ectopic pregnancy), and either the fetus is unlikely to survive anyway, or will not be able to live should the mother die that early. In such a case (assuming you trust the doctor’s analysis), saving one life rather than having both mother and baby die would be the preferred (pro-life) outcome. I imagine this is an exceedingly rare situation. I would also imagine there would be some mothers who would choose to allow the pregnancy to continue, anyhow, much in the same way that a parent might sacrifice her life for her child when the child is older.

    A different scenario (though still perhaps quite rare) would be an apparent choice between the mother living or the child living. This would be similar to a rare conjoined case in which it seems unlikely that both twins will be able to survive.

    But how could you possibly make a “pro-life” argument in which abortion is condoned merely for reasons of “emotional health”? Go ahead, try.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Michael B asked (@11):

    Even if you allow abortion as an exception for health reasons — how serious of a health risk does it have to be? Every pregnancy has some percentage of a risk. And what happens when people want to open the door for emotional health?

    Look, this isn’t as difficult as you’re making it out to be, even if there is room for debate. If you are, in fact, discussing things from a pro-life stance, then at some point, your discussion is going to have to actually weigh in on the issue of life (that is, living vs. dying), not merely “health”. Which is why “emotional health” isn’t at all likely to be a factor.

    Otherwise, the issue will be one of preserving life. The more obvious case is one where doctors believe that the pregnancy’s progressing will cause the death of the mother (e.g. an ectopic pregnancy), and either the fetus is unlikely to survive anyway, or will not be able to live should the mother die that early. In such a case (assuming you trust the doctor’s analysis), saving one life rather than having both mother and baby die would be the preferred (pro-life) outcome. I imagine this is an exceedingly rare situation. I would also imagine there would be some mothers who would choose to allow the pregnancy to continue, anyhow, much in the same way that a parent might sacrifice her life for her child when the child is older.

    A different scenario (though still perhaps quite rare) would be an apparent choice between the mother living or the child living. This would be similar to a rare conjoined case in which it seems unlikely that both twins will be able to survive.

    But how could you possibly make a “pro-life” argument in which abortion is condoned merely for reasons of “emotional health”? Go ahead, try.

  • Michael B.

    @Todd

    Even in an ectopic pregnancy, the risk of death to the mother is not 100%. There are examples of ectopic pregnancies that end up with both a live baby and mother. So how risky does an abortion have to be to allow for the fetus to be destroyed? Let’s say you don’t want to set the threshold that high. What happens when new research comes along and says, “Women who have babies under these circumstances have a higher risk of suicide, depression, etc”. So it quickly becomes a slippery slope.

    Also, I don’t know if you’re a parent, but I am, and I can’t imagine a situation where I’d kill my child to save myself.

  • Michael B.

    @Todd

    Even in an ectopic pregnancy, the risk of death to the mother is not 100%. There are examples of ectopic pregnancies that end up with both a live baby and mother. So how risky does an abortion have to be to allow for the fetus to be destroyed? Let’s say you don’t want to set the threshold that high. What happens when new research comes along and says, “Women who have babies under these circumstances have a higher risk of suicide, depression, etc”. So it quickly becomes a slippery slope.

    Also, I don’t know if you’re a parent, but I am, and I can’t imagine a situation where I’d kill my child to save myself.


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