Graphs comparing support for abortion and gay marriage

One thing I find extremely interesting is that while support for gay marriage is increasing, support for women’s right to choose is not. Here are two graphs to compare. One shows support for and opposition to abortion, and the other shows support for and opposition to gay marriage. Both cover the same period, from 1996 to 2011.


What you see here is that from 1996 to 2011 opposition to abortion has held steady and even increased while opposition to gay marriage has decreased, and dramatically so. This seems especially odd given these two issues are always portrayed as being the top two issues of the “culture wars” today.

This gets especially interesting when you take age into account. Here are some charts that do just that:


While you see a dramatic difference between the younger demographic (18 to 34) and the older demographic (55 and older) on whether gay marriage should be legalized – 70% as compared to 39% – you do not see the same difference on abortion, where 51% of the younger demographic identify as pro-choice as compared to 45% of the older demographic.

In fact, a greater proportion of the younger demographic hold that abortion is “immoral” than of the older demographic (53% to 51%) and a greater proportion of the younger demographic want to see abortion banned in all circumstances than of the older demographic (24% to 22%). (Note: I’m not sure of the margin of error in these charts.)

And yes, that chart really does show that 59% of Americans aged 18 to 34 want abortion to be legal in “few or no” circumstances.

I personally think, and I could be wrong, that what has happened is that proponents of gay marriage have successfully made the rhetoric of the gay marriage fight about allowing gay people to have families like everyone else while opponents of abortion have successfully made the rhetoric of the abortion fight about saving the lives of sweet, cuddly babies.

I’m really curious, though, about my readers’ thoughts, and I’m offering these graphs and charts as more of a starting point for conversation than anything else. Why do you think support for gay marriage is on the rise and while support for women’s right to choose is comparatively stagnant?

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Almost everybody in the younger cohorts knows gays (of whatever category) who have suffered from discrimination and bigotry. Only the older generations know women who’ve been barred from reproductive self-control.

    Gays are able and willing to speak up for themselves now, and have multiple and talented spokespeople on tv.

    Unwillingly pregnant women, and those who were such before receiving abortions, have ____.

    • Ginny

      This is basically what I was going to say as well. Also consider portrayals in fiction, especially TV, which is a big opinion-shaper especially for young people with less personal life experience. Happy, healthy gay people? I can think of half a dozen off-hand. Women who have gotten an abortion, affirmed within the context of the show as a positive choice? Umm…

  • Cluisanna

    I think it has also something to do with which opinion is harder to understand. Explaining why gay people shouldn’t marry is extremely hard without saying “Because I am bigoted, that’s why.” (Or, alternatively, “because the bible says so”, which is basically the same thing.) At the same time, explaining why abortion isn’t “killing babies” involves concepts like the difference between potential and reality, developmental stages of foeti, and probably the acceptance that there actually is no such thing as a soul.
    I think the public often favors the more easily understandable explanation, which explains why religion is so prevalent. It’s pretty easy to understand that gay marriage harms nobody, but it’s a lot less easy to understand that the “harm” that an aborted foetus/zygote experiences is not worth more than the harm that the pregnant person experiences if ze is forced to continue hir pregnancy, especially if the cultural messages you receive every day are pretty clear on the fact that (cis) women and other people with female genitalia are *supposed* to be mothers.

  • Ace of Sevens

    I think media narrative is part of the problem. It comes off as “killing babies is wrong” vs. “her body, her choice,” which in light of the counter narrative comes off as “killing babies is OK if the mother wants.” I think focusing on the lies of the anti-choice movement (i.e. that “babies” are being killed) would be a lot better than focusing on a complicated philosophical argument.

    • Ysanne

      Full ACK.
      The anti-abortion crowd manages to portray themselves as the brave advocates of unborn babies.
      A lot of the pro-choice crowd’s arguments are very easily twisted into “selfish women want to kill their babies”. The main underlying assumption — that a parasitic bunch of cells is not a baby — is “disproved” by showing only fetuses that could well survive as a preemie. Even though they know full well that this is not the stage when any woman would get an abortion.
      I think it would help a lot if this kind of lie could be exposed for what it is: An attempt to paint women as irresponsible murderers.

  • jemand

    I wonder if it has anything to do with how the question is parsed…

    The question of gay marriage more and more is becoming a pragmatic, policy question. Whereas “pro-life” or “pro-choice” is more a matter of identity, more a proclamation rather than policy issue. Legal gay marriage becomes a matter of paperwork and bureaucracy, it’s a nuts and bolts thing.

    Pro-life, really, is more of an identity, more of a proclamation, it’s not even usually coupled with things that make life easier for mothers or young children, so it’s not like things would actually materially change or even abortion demand would go down, but it’s a wish for the state to “make a statement.”

    I think the different sides have different opinions for whether these issues should be proclamation or policy, which is why you hear in anti-gay-marriage camps rhetoric around the state “telling kids that being homosexual is good” or whatever… they see it as statement making. And that view seems to be loosing when it comes to gay marriage, but winning when it comes to abortion, maybe?

  • http://ht Amanda

    With gay marriage, it’s becoming increasingly accepted that it’s a civil rights issue, both in the media and in the discussions outside. With abortion, yup, it’s the “cuddly baby” syndrome. And it infuriates me.

    I did experience an unplanned pregnancy. And while I chose to carry my son to term, I wouldn’t make that choice for anyone else. I only know what I could handle, given my specific circumstances at that given moment. Pregnancy is not a simple matter, and the issues surrounding a woman’s choice aren’t either.

  • Sierra

    I think there are a lot of people who consider themselves “pro-life” but aren’t interested in making decisions for others. I also think the “legal in few circumstances” crowd is just poorly educated on the subject and believes the whole “partial-birth abortion” scare.

  • Danielle

    I was 8 in 1996. My mom was a lesbian, my best friend’s dad was gay, it seemed like everyone knew and cared about someone in the LGBT community. Gay rights just seemed so obvious. In high school 20% of our school would participate in the day of silence. There were gay characters on our TV shows too, just in case you didn’t know any in real life.

    Meanwhile I was in middle school during the Bush election. I remember just being old enough to know what abortion was. We had debates in school about it. Since I was in such a liberal community, I knew abortion was a good right to have, but I didn’t know why. I had to peer review a girl’s essay on why abortion was bad, and I completely fell for her argument that women should just give up their babies for adoption. I even wrote “You changed my mind!” on her paper. I had no idea what pregnancy really entailed, or how terrible it would be to go through it against my will. We were only really told about how incredible babies and pregnancy was. We all mostly came from families who were trying to conceive us, and who would be grateful for another baby. Even on TV, the teenage characters who got pregnant always decided not to have an abortion. Their pregnancy was hard (mostly because of gossip) but it was all worth it in the end.

    Meanwhile in high school I saw girls who had their second child before graduation. Their lives were ruined. A friend of mine had an abortion, and after all of the bad gossip she was perfectly fine. These experiences were what solidified my view on abortion, and I don’t think many people have them. Abortions are hidden and secret, and the hard parts of pregnancy and raising a baby you don’t want are mostly hidden too. We only see the evil baby killing vs righteous responsibility points of view.

    • MadGastronomer

      Damn, I wish I’d lived in your community in 1996.

      In 1996, I was 18 and graduating high school as one-half of the only out queer couple on campus, and the only out queer in my class. I got death threats at school. I got harassed by the dean. I got all kinds of shit. The only reason I was never physically attacked was that I had a bodyguard of large male friends from JROTC and the football team. The only reason I managed to get prom tickets for my gf and I was that one of our favorite teachers was the faculty sponsor, and he made certain of it.

      Sorry to hear no one explained the realities of abortion to you, though.

  • William Burns

    I think this is connected to the fact that lots of gays and lesbians have come out, but very few women in the public eye have publicly announced that they have had abortions.

    • Ysanne

      Well, not in the US.
      Already in 1971, in France and Germany, groups of over 300 women each, celebrities among them, announced “We had an abortion!” on the front page of widely circulated news magazines.
      (Read here and here, unfortunately no English translation for the German one.)
      NB: Abortion was illegal at that time in both countries, and carried heavy penalties.

    • MadGastronomer

      Yeah. I make a point of talking about mine when it comes up, but it gets rough. Karnythia posted about her abortion, and later had the same piece published on Slate, and she’s still getting threats. She was physically stalked for a while and genuinely in fear for her life. It’s a hard thing to do to talk about it publicly. I’m not as vulnerable as she is, but still…

    • spamamander, hellmart survivor

      I do think this likely has a great deal to do with it. Statistically, one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime in the US, yet it seems like we know nobody who has had one.

      I’m certainly not “in the public eye” by any means, and it was a wee bit foreign to me when I attended a pro-choice rally in Seattle to hear “without apology” in regards to abortion access. However, by the time people started going to the podium and speaking up, I was beginning to grasp why it was important, and before I knew it I was up there announcing “I had an abortion and I’m not sorry!”. It normalizes and humanizes the women who choose abortion. And I’m NOT sorry.

  • Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

    Part of the problem is that even many pro-choice people tend to frame abortion as something immoral that should only be employed as a last resort (e.g. fighting on the “well what about rape victims?” ground defined by the forced birth people; condemning women who “use abortion as birth control”;). Also, they allow the opposite side to set the argument as one of “when life begins” which is totally irrelevant to the question (not to mention completely unscientific). They’ve allowed the media to label the forced birth people “pro-life” as though supporters of women’s autonomy are anti-life. Frankly, it’s a total mess.

    We should be out there educating girls (and boys for that matter) about what life was like (and still is like) when safe abortions aren’t accessible. We should be frank about the implications of an anti-abortion rights stance. It is nothing less than being pro-slavery for pregnant women.

    • Yukimi

      I agree completely with you. Luckily, I’ve always lived in a pro-choice environment all my life. In fact, I know my mother would expect me to have an abortion if I got pregnant while still studying (which would be what I’d do unless I won the lottery or something like that).

      There are great movies, documentaries and TV episodes about what botched abortions did to women. For example, I really liked one Cold Case episode on the topic of how clandestine abortions worked.

  • Joy

    I haven’t followed the abortion debate as closely as I used to, but I am old enough that I am about the same age as Becky Bell would have been, had she not died in 1988 after an illegal abortion. Her parents, in her memory, publicized what happened to her as part of a campaign against parental consent laws (which Bell died trying to avoid). Her story made a huge impression on me. I’m not sure young people today hear, or if they do, if they connect as well to stories like Bell’s. My age group, incidentally, has the highest % pro choice.

    But overall, I think you are right about the reasons.

  • AztecQueen2000

    I’m pro-choice because I would rather see a woman abort a seven-week fetus than throw a full-term baby in the trash. And, yes, women and girls have done this. I even heard about a girl who gave birth at her prom and tried to flush her full-term newborn down the toilet.

  • Tanit-isis

    I think part of the problem is that, while gay marriage is a *good thing* abortion is, really, a necessary evil. In the ideal world of even the most ardent pro-choicer (and I am SO pro choice) there would be no unwanted pregnancies and hence no abortions (except those which are medically necessary, anyway).

    I’d been married to my husband ten years (and dealt with our own unplanned pregnancy) before I realized how strongly pro-life he actually felt—not for any religious reasons, but definitely for fuzzy “babies are great” kind of reasons.

    • MadGastronomer

      But, you see, there WILL always be reasons for abortions. Of course, in the perfect world, there wouldn’t be, but we’ll never achieve that. There will always be unwanted pregnancies, medical reasons, and things that come up that cause wanted pregnancies to be unwanted (most of which are also medical, like getting cancer and not being able to get treatment while pregnant).

      And no, it’s not a necessary evil. That phrase implies that there’s something wrong with abortion itself. There’s not. It’s a solution to a problem, and if anything is evil (and I don’t agree that it is, because I don’t believe in the existence of evil as it is usually defined), it’s the problem itself. The solution is, pretty much by definition, a good thing.

      So I do not agree with your premise, no.

      • khms

        Whereas I do agree.

        In my perfect world – well, in my not perfect but vastly better world – we’d have enough medical technology to be able to just extract that embryo and put it in another woman or even a machine and get a fine birth. (Maybe even in a willing man, though I have no idea how to make that work.) Oh, and fix any problem in the embryo which would make that impossible.

        Of course, that better world is not likely to be anything but fantasy in my lifetime. But given that technology, there’d be no good reason to kill that embryo, and thus, I must call it a necessary evil – like, say, having cops and jails. Like cutting people to amputate their appendix. It’s not good, it’s just strictly better than the alternative, and as soon as we can find a better alternative, that’s what we’ll do instead.

        Oh, and it infuriates me how the pro-lifers regularly refuse any measures that would improve alternatives at least in some cases. Pretty much every fucking time. Improving society so there’d be less rape, more support for single moms, better institutions for adoptions – none of these do pro-lifers like.

      • MadGastronomer

        And if uterine replicators existed, the choice would still belong to the woman from whose womb the embryo was taken. Plus, good luck find enough adoptive parents for all the ones you DO manage to bring to term. Babies who will probably fit the current beauty standards, sure, lots of market for them. For babies of color, ugly babies, babies with congenital disabilities . . . not so much. Then how are you going to bring them all up? Your utopia brings its own problems with it, and I guarantee you, there will still be elective abortions. There are always reasons why specific pregnancies should not be brought to term, according to the will of the woman whose uterus it starts in.

        And, again, there’s nothing evil about abortion. They’re quick, they’re simple, they’re about as invasive as a pap smear, and about as uncomfortable, and any emotional pain they cause (the abortions, as opposed to the unwanted pregnancies) is guilt given to them by people who believe it’s evil. So. You yourself are part of what makes the only evil involved in the abortion itself.

      • MadGastronomer

        And, as my partner has just reminded me, there is still the problem of conception by rape and incest. Surely you can understand why the mere existence of a child that shares one’s genes with one’s rapist’s genes could be a horrifying and traumatizing thing. Even today, sealed adoption records can be unsealed, and there are ways for a child to find their birth parent. Imagine how horrifying that would be.

        Uterine replicators would supplant one type of abortion (and thereby cause a host of new problems), but they are not magic robo-wombs that magically cure all ills.

      • Ace of Sevens

        Church answer: If a mother is upset about a rapist’s baby, she’s being selfish. This is like taking a bitter divorce out on a kid. Why should a child suffer because of their parents’ problem?

      • MadGastronomer

        The church is wrong.

    • anat

      Agree on the necessary, disagree on the evil. An embryo or early fetus can’t suffer, which means it can’t be harmed, even by death. Even if the technology existed to bring it to term without the involvement of anyone’s body – as long as the decision is made before capacity for suffering develops the morality of anything done to it is only measured by its impact on others. Destroying such a being is no worse than any kind of minor surgery.

  • George W.

    It’s a confluence of factors that others have already mentioned.

    Most younger people take the right to control your reproductive system for granted- they have never seen the alternative.

    Abortion continues to be framed as something “other girls” do as a form of birth control. Since most people are not aware of how many people they know who have made the choice to abort a pregnancy, or had to have the procedure for medically necessary reasons- and the ones they are aware of usually don’t ever talk openly about it- people are left to the information available second hand. This includes anti-abortion groups that paint pictures of sadistic sluts who abort pregnancies for “convenience”. It also includes the stories of women who do talk about their experience, the most common of which is the emotionally devastated woman who recently found God.

    I think it is easy to advocate against an injustice as opposed to maintaining an existing right. You can see what is wrong with the prevailing laws.

  • Kierra

    I’d say the issue is probably the availability of multiple types of birth control that aren’t abortion. It used to be that your only option to keep from getting pregnant was to not have sex or convince your guy (who doesn’t really have as pressing an incentive to prevent pregnancy) to wear a condom. Women now have the pill, IUDs, Depo-Provera, and the morning-after pill as options to control their fertility. If you aren’t aware of the difficulty that is sometimes involved in getting those easier birth control options, it makes it seem a lot more “irresponsible” to be in the position of having an unwanted pregnancy.

    In contrast, there’s no real way to mitigate being gay.

  • karmakin

    Also, over the last few years (until VERY recently) the debate about abortion has almost entirely been focused on late-term abortions, which people are probably generally more squeemish about (even though they’re pretty rare).

    I suspect that if you did another poll in 6 months, now with the debate on abortion not focusing on contraception, you’ll probably see some different results.

    That said, as said above, it’s always going to be a tough-sell in our baby-worshipping culture.

  • jose

    People have seen plenty of gay couples in the media being happy at their wedding. A lot of photographs in specials celebrating the passing of a gay marriage bill, featuring old, adorable partners crying with joy as they give each other a hug. That’s gotta increase public approval.

    Women who have abortions however never appear on TV, not in a positive light. Even for a lot of pro-choice people, they are those shady, guilty women who “made a mistake” and go to the clinic to get rid of the consequences of their “mistake”.

  • psocoptera

    As long as so many people believe a blastocyst has a soul, I don’t see a clear solution. I would love to hear from a few more people who used to be pro-life to see what changed their minds.

    • Jenn

      Since I’m no longer Christian, I no longer believe in a soul.

      It wasn’t the soul though that caught me up. It was the pictures of babies in the womb and the categorization of it as murder – killing a sentient being. Plan B actually radically changed my view because by then I knew that a day old pregnancy was not even something detectable by the human eye, much less recognizable as a baby. The objection to it, that you just can’t know where sentience begins, was hollow to me. Obviously not yet.

      I agree with people who state that abortion is something that most people keep hidden and are ashamed about. It’s more difficult to talk about an abortion than it is to talk about being an atheist. I don’t know anyone who has ever had an abortion as far as I know. Women’s sexuality is something that is still swept under the rug and there’s still the stereotype that women should have as few sexual partners as possible, otherwise she’s a slut. It’s a double standard in our culture, at least in the US.

  • Lou Doench

    I think that there has been a failure of messaging on the “pro-choice” side (my side I suppose). The Forced Birth crowd has always had a consistent moral certainty to its message about saving the little babies, whereas the pro-choice message for many years has been the pudding soft “safe, legal, and rare” line that in my opinion cedes that moral authority back to the bad guys. While safe and legal are fine goals, the “and rare” add on weakens our position by frankly admitting that there is something inherently wrong or dirty with terminating a pregnancy. It leaves an opening for the anti-choice crowd to wedge in methods to make it more “rare”

    sorry if I’m rambling… our unplanned pregnancy wants me to play cars with him and its distracting me…

  • ischemgeek

    I don’t see anything wrong with abortion. Maybe that’s the message we should be arguing: That fetuses aren’t babies, and that it is abhorrent to sentence someone to twenty years hard time because they forgot to take a pill. The punishment definitely doesn’t fit the crime because there’s no crime to punish!

  • jamessweet

    I think the dramatic increase in support for marriage equality is primarily due to familiarity: In 1996, a lot fewer people knew that they knew LGBT people, and a lot fewer people had been aware of the concept of same-sex marriage long enough for the idea to sink in. In contrast, everybody has known about abortion for a long time, and I imagine the number of people who know they know somebody whose had an abortion has not changed significantly in this time.

    In other words, I think a lot of people who opposed marriage equality just hadn’t really thought about it very much, and now that there has been time for it to sink in, they either support it or don’t care. I imagine you’re going to see support for same-sex marriage start to plateau at some point, as everybody who would have supported it if they just thought about it a little and/or knew a gay couple becomes converted. Then a hardcore of opposition will remain, and will fade slowly as more and more churches officially drop their opposition to marriage equality.

    It occurs to me while writing this that many women who have had an abortion are somewhat “in the closet” about it. It’s the kind of thing that many only share with close friends. And that’s understandable, since it is a very personal issue… but maybe there is value in women “coming out” and letting people know that, yes, they have had an abortion, and no, they are not ashamed. I imagine it would be a lot harder to be rabidly anti-choice if you personally know someone who had an abortion and you see that she is a good and decent person…. just a thought.

    • Rosa

      Being gay involves doing a lot of things, most of them over and over. Having an abortion is just a thing you do once. Telling people about a thing that happened one time is a lot more political and less natural than just letting them be aware of your ongoing life.

      To be in the closet a person has to hide so many things. Having a partner, or dating, or having an ex-partner. Doing all those partner/dating things from going places together to texting to raising kids. Having photographs of yourself with a partner or dates. And they have to continue to hide them, or stop doing them, and if they stop they have to grieve those losses without telling people. If they are in a relationship, being in the closet means getting a whole constellation of people around the relationship into the secrecy.

      To not tell anyone about having an abortion, a woman has to just not tell anyone. It’s not the same kind of thing at all.

  • lordshipmayhem

    I prefer to frame the abortion debate as between “pro-choice” and “pro-wire-coat-hanger”.

    It kind of puts the choice in stark contrast: desperate young women, some of them in their early teens, will choose the dangerous method if the safer option is forbidden them – to say nothing of the fact that pregnancy itself isn’t exactly “safe”. Just as with banning the consumption of alcohol or recreational pharmaceuticals, banning abortion doesn’t stop the practice, it just drives it underground.

  • ScottInOH

    (My response got much longer than intended! Some of this might be more appropriate for your post on how to discuss abortion with someone.)

    I’ve been surprised by the fairly rapid acceptance of gay marriage. It was only a couple of years ago that that was the issue Republicans were using to get their base to the polls. Maybe it would still work to get out their base, but it seems now that it would probably also bring out a lot of their opponents and they’d get slammed.

    I agree that part of the reason is probably familiarity, both because people know gay couples and because media portrayal of such couples is positive. (And not just in scripted shows–”House Hunters” and other HGTV shows involve gay couples fairly regularly now.) Meanwhile, women who have had abortions are quiet about it, and TV doesn’t have girls or women getting abortions (they either carry to term or have a miscarriage). That’s actually a change from the 1970s, I believe.

    My own move toward the pro-choice side has been the result of a number of factors. Here are three, pretty much in the order in which I came to realize them:

    * People who claim to be pro-life, particularly leaders but also many rank and file, are very likely to hold other positions that don’t seem to fit with a worldview that really values other people’s lives: pro-death penalty; pro-war; anti-social spending; anti-contraception; and on and on. Could it possibly be true that they are so wrong on so many things but exactly right on this one? Or is the anti-abortion policy just another way to keep other people, particularly women, down?

    * Most abortions don’t happen when the thing being removed from the woman is anything like a baby as we know it. The pictures on posters are misleading. In fact, all the discussion of whether the zygote/embryo/fetus is a “baby” is a red herring–the most committed anti-abortionists oppose abortion because they think the entity has a soul (or they want to keep women subservient). That’s a religious argument and doesn’t belong in our policymaking process.

    * Even if I thought the entity inside the woman was a full-fledged human being, the frame of the debate–”When is it OK to kill a child?”–is illegitimate, or certainly not the only legitimate one. It takes the zygote/embryo/fetus as the primary being (not simply equal to the woman). Approaching the issue from the opposite direction leads to a different frame: “When is it OK to force a woman to give 9 months of life support to someone she doesn’t know?”

    Finally, I would point out that the poll questions on abortion in this post are much more nebulous than those on gay marriage. They don’t even make sense on their own terms. 75-80% of respondents think abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances, but only 50% of them think of themselves as pro-choice. Support for the “pro-life” position may not be as strong as the polls suggest. A change in frame could produce a very large shift.

  • Decnavda

    I have an answer that I do not think extremists on either side of the abortion debate are going to like to hear, so let me say at the outset that I am an extremist – I believe abortion should be legal in all circumstances. (Except where it is forced on the mother, not a circumstance usually considered part of the debate in the West.) I am extemist because I have thought about this issue a lot and come to logical conclusions.

    I do not think most people actually think through these issues much. Most people respond with their gut reaction. When most people thought they did not know any gay people, their gut reaction to homosexuality is that it is wierd and gross. When people became familiar with gays and lesbians the weirdness factor went away and what was left were the facts on the ground. And the facts on the ground are that same-sex love and same-sex sex between consenting adults harms no one. If it no longer seems weird, there is no reason to oppose it.

    But how people respond emotionally to the facts on the ground go against both extremist positions in the abortion debate. *EVERYONE* calls an 8 month feotus a “baby”, and the idea of aborting it is just naturally horifying on gut level. Conversely, the idea of weeping over the death of a microscopic zygote attached to a woman’s uterine wall is just naturally silly on a gut level.

    Yes, these gut level reactions are WRONG. But no amount of “framing” or familiarity with feotuses or women who have had abortions is going to change these gut reactions to the facts among people who do not want to think about these issues much. They will always be ambivilent about abortion, and whether they call themselves “pro-coice” or “pro-life” at any given moment will sway depending on whether the current national debate is about partial birth abortion or Plan B. And this is one reason individual rights should not be put up for majority vote.

  • Dianne

    *EVERYONE* calls an 8 month feotus a “baby”, and the idea of aborting it is just naturally horifying on gut level.

    I don’t disagree with you, but have you ever seen an anencephalic baby? Or even a picture of one? It’s horrifying on a gut level too. People just look WRONG with no brain and a malformed head. And that’s the sort of fetus that is at risk for being aborted at 8 months, not a healthy 8 month fetus.

    • Decnavda

      Gut level response 1: So you think it’s okay to kill babies if they’re disabled?

      Gut level response 2: Well sure, it should be oaky to abort THOSE kinds of babies. But it should be illegal to abort healthy babies. That’s why abortion should only be legal in certain circumstances.

      Again, I do not agree with either of those responses. But if we keep arguing, we are going further in the debate than I believe many people want to go.

      • Dianne

        Gut level response 1: Gut level response to response: Find a a picture of an anencephalic baby on google image. They are truly horrifying and look like a demonic mockery of a baby, not a baby. They look worse in real life, in case you’re wondering.

        Moving away from the gut level, an anencephalic infant, i.e. one that has been born, is considered brain dead and a candidate for organ donation if that’s what the parents want. It’s not killing a disabled child, it’s acknowledging the death of one who is brain dead but on life support.

        Gut level response 2: Who aborts healthy 8 month old fetuses? I can’t think of even any anecdotes, although, people being people, I’m sure it’s happened.

        I actually do think that there’s a potential argument to be made for restricting very late (30+ week) abortions. The argument goes like this: By not aborting in the past 30 weeks, the mother has given implied consent for the fetus to occupy her uterus as long as it needs to. If she didn’t give it permission, why didn’t she do something about it sometime in the last 7 months?

        Obviously for this argument to have ANY validity, the woman in question must have had reasonable access to abortion earlier in the pregnancy, especially the first few months. I think there are still several potential fallacies to the argument, but I’m wondering if you think it would have any emotional appeal to the “mainstream” anti-choicer: Exchange stricter laws on late abortion for increased access to early abortion. Move the percentage of abortions that occur in the embryonic period from 50-60% up to 80-90% by making early abortions free and readily available and make it quite hard to get an abortion after 30 weeks, unless there was a problem with the fetus or the mother’s health.

      • Decnavda

        I think that “deal” would go over *very* well with the mainstream. I would not want to make such a deal, but given that the current regime has turned a right to an abortion into a de facto state-by-state right, it might be a deal worth making, if it could be made.

      • Nepenthe

        I actually do think that there’s a potential argument to be made for restricting very late (30+ week) abortions. The argument goes like this: By not aborting in the past 30 weeks, the mother has given implied consent for the fetus to occupy her uterus as long as it needs to. If she didn’t give it permission, why didn’t she do something about it sometime in the last 7 months?

        The only situations in which I could conceive of a woman wishing to abort a healthy fetus at 30 weeks involve very young or mentally ill or disabled women. It’s possible to not know that you’re pregnant (but very rare). It’s possible to be the victim of abuse, whether as a child or a mentally disabled adult, and not understand what pregnancy is or to have become pregnant precisely at menarche and thus have no indication (loss of menses) until quite late. A victim of rape might be in denial for a long time (I was for about three months; luckily I only failed to menstruate due to stress, not pregnancy).

      • MadGastronomer

        Late term abortions are almost impossible to get NOW for the women who NEED THEM DESPERATELY, at least in the US. We have only one or twos remaining providers who perform them, their schedules are very busy, and most women can afford to travel to see them. And this is BECAUSE the law says you can only get late term abortions if they’re medically necessary and other providers do not want to risk the government deciding that one of those wasn’t quite necessary enough, and stopped performing them. Women’s lives are at risk because of this law. It’s extremely likely that some have died, but we don’t know because it’s simply not reported on.

        So no, late term abortion should not be made legally difficult to obtain. Doctors refused to perform them for anything other than medical need (a threat to the mother’s life or the fetus having a condition incompatible with life) BEFORE the law was in place, so all the law has done is make it impossible for women who truly need it.

  • inflection

    You might note a telling overlap: more than 50% of Americans 18-34 call themselves pro-choice, and more than 50% of the same age group think that abortions are morally wrong. It follows that a not insignificant percentage of the population holds both of those positions: the “I would never do it but I uphold the right of someone else to do it” camp. These people have been convinced by the moral argument — after all, once you’re pregnant it’s hard to say that you’re pregnant with anything other than your baby — but don’t necessarily think that the case is made for legal intervention.

    It’s perhaps not surprising, in such a situation, that the plurality response in all age groups would be “legal in only a few circumstances.” If something you personally find bad must, due to other principles, be made available, then making it available under restricted circumstances is a natural response that bows to both moral interests.

  • oldebabe

    Arguments “…about it and about…” (see the Rubaiyat, verse 27), are just never-ending conversation. As I have not had an abortion, nor contemplated having one, I can’t speak to that experience.

    Ideas about morality or no, if I had needed/wanted one, I would have had an abortion. Several of my acquaintances many years ago had elective abortions (and I’m talking about elective abortions here, i.e. medically necessary abortions are no brainers) because they did not want to bear a child, for whatever reason, and in fact I gave money to one woman for her abortion because I felt she had the right idea given her circumstance.

    That being said, it would of course be better if no one had to have an abortion, so I think the ubiquitous distribution of general information and free supplies of contraceptive devices/products et al is the way to go, tho I’m aware that some potential for pregnancy still may exist as long as people continue to have sexual intercourse, and they WILL, freely and otherwise.

    Apparently, or according to the graphs you show, I must be an exception, i.e. unlike all the youngers who write here, I’m 81 years old. I am, however, both pro-choice, and pro-anyone wanting traditional marriage, whatever their `sexual orientation’. Graphs always bring out the skeptic in me, as they should you.

  • James

    Wasn’t Hitler a baby?

  • tommykey

    I did a post on this about a month ago.

    It basically echoes points raised by others, such as most people have a friend, relative, co-worker who is openly gay, which forces them to confront there own homophobia, whereas women who have abortions are generally (and naturally) secretive about it and it’s a procedure they will likely undergo once or at most twice in a lifetime.

  • tommykey

    Another point with regard to abortion is that the younger generations are removed from the era of back alley abortions when the procedure was illegal, whereas older pro-choice voters remember what it was like before Roe. In a way, abortion rights are a victim of their own success.

  • Briana Sanks

    Never let the hand you hold, hold you down!

  • KG

    From your top graph on abortion, the only significant change across the population as a whole seems to have happened between 1996 and 1998, and from others, there’s little difference between those aged 18-34 and those aged 35-54. Given the emotional intensity and shameless dishonesty of the forced-birthers’ campaigns, it’s perhaps surprising and heartening that they have had so little effect.