What do the purple people want in PRRI’s abortion poll?

What do the purple people want in PRRI’s abortion poll? January 31, 2013

This is the Public Religion Research Institute’s Graphic of the Week:

“In an exceedingly complex debate over abortion,” PRRI asks, “what do the labels ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ actually mean to average Americans?”

That’s not addressed in this graphic, but their data on “overlapping identities” points toward one possibility.

There’s a lot of purple in that graphic — the portion of each graph representing those who identify as both “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” White evangelicals and Catholics, unsurprisingly have the largest share of adherents who identify exclusively as pro-life. My guess is that this share — those who refuse any association with the identifier pro-choice — reflects those who want to see abortion criminalized, those who view abortion as immoral and also (or therefore) want to see it made illegal.

But more than half of Catholics and more than a third of white evangelicals identify as both pro-life and pro-choice. My guess — and this is only a guess — is that this suggests a moral opposition to abortion along with a perhaps-reluctant acknowledgement that it nonetheless ought to remain a legal option. My guess is that these purple people would be approximately in favor of the old Clinton formula: safe, legal and rare — perhaps with an emphasis on the “rare.” Some might prefer to pursue making abortion more rare by introducing an increasing number of legal hurdles, obstacles and hindrances, but others may prefer to pursue making abortion more rare by empowering women to have a wider menu of viable, meaningful choices (living wages, health care, day care, etc.).

Again, I’m just guessing — the graphic doesn’t actually tell us anything about what the purple people want or what it means, to them, to choose both of those identifiers of pro-life and pro-choice. It may only indicate that many Americans find these identifiers both to be inadequate on their own — as Taja Lindley recently wrote, the polarizing politics of abortion present a stark binary view that doesn’t capture many people’s actual experience:

In today’s binary political system, however, abortion has become oversimplified. Although fraught with social, economic, cultural, and political meaning, abortion has been reduced to a singular and isolated issue in the political arena. And yet, just below the surface of political silencing, those of us whose experiences with abortion do not fit neatly into didactic sound-bites and talking points for pundits and policymakers in their public debates about our bodies, the waters of human experience still run deep.

But if my guess above is correct — if the “pro-life only” category represents those who want to see abortion outlawed, while the purple people lean toward safe, legal and rare — then this graphic shows us something interesting: Earlier surveys have found that about a third of white evangelicals want abortion to be legally available in their communities. Yet this survey finds 48 percent of white evangelicals identifying themselves as pro-choice. This may indicate that allowing respondents to qualify their answers — to say they are pro-choice but also pro-life — resulted in a greater number of white evangelicals being willing to state that they do not wish to see abortion criminalized. And if my guess is correct about what this graphic is showing us, then it would suggest that a greater number of white evangelicals wish to see abortion remain a legal option than wish to see it banned completely.

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  • EllieMurasaki

    Yes, all of that–and it’s not necessarily true that the parent of a Down’s child (or any other child with an early-onset disability) knew what they were getting into, too, so even if we make the appalling assumption that everyone who knows their fetus has Down’s will abort, help for Down’s people and caretakers thereof need to remain available.

  • Lori


    There is a very real possibility that Roe v Wade will be overturned and
    even if it’s not there will continue to be new laws passed that
    effectively prevent women from being able to get safe, legal abortions. 

    So speaking of laws that effectively eliminate safe, legal abortion, behold the result of people unclear on the f’ing concept when it comes to fetal heartbeat being used by rabid anti-choicers.


    If this becomes law I’m sure the women of Arkansas will be very so grateful for everyone’s morally serious qualms.

    See also: http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2013/02/abortion-on-the-ground

  • AnonymousSam


    Well, he’s certainly representative of his kind. Baptist, describes himself as “a conservative, gun-owning, middle-aged, ordained fundamentalist,” thinks his actions are “sav[ing] America for our children’s future,” simultaneously says we need to defend the Constitution while also saying sometimes you need to ignore it, praises individual liberty while planning to strip it from citizens, and… whew, the things he’s done already. Quite a few of them enable carrying of concealed weapons in public places, including churches, schools and universities. Several make it harder to get abortions, or shut down clinics. One to urge everyone in the government to repeal the ACA.

    And yet what I keep coming back to, over and over, is that depraved, balls-slappingly stupid man of clay invoked the fight for women’s rights in the process of eliminating them.

  • I am just stunned beyond belief at the way that man has redefined chutzpah.

  • AnonymousSam

    His first bill to make abortion harder to get was even better. It would have held abortion clinics to stricter standards, closing most of them and making the others much harder to keep funded. His description of it was that it was a bill to protect women.

  • P J Evans

     It makes me think that some people have sections of their brains that simply don’t work at all. Like irony and proportion and recognition that other people aren’t them.

  • Carstonio

    No, he could be afflicted by the pro-life hero myth, with evil abortionists preying upon women for profit and deceiving them into not wanting to be mothers. Or else the line about protecting women is just a deliberate lie as a sales tactic.

  • Water_Bear

    Maybe he means “protecting them from themselves;” like stopping them from committing a sin and exposing them to Magic Baby Happiness Radiation TM is going to keep them out of Hell. Still hilariously wrongheaded, but I suspect he does see himself as helping the women he’s screwing over.

  • Tricksterson

    Well yes, from themselves since, poor dear things that they are they can’t possibly be trusted to define what’s in their own best interests.

  • AnonymousSam

    He specifically invoked the “dingy dungeon-like laboratory where women are prodded and jabbed with rusted knives to produce the desired bloody result” horror stereotype of abortion clinics, so his idea was to basically require them to be as well-certified as an actual hospital. That would have shut most of them down on the spot.

    Of course, our maternal death rates are high enough that I somehow don’t think forcing women to have their children is really giving them better odds, all other factors aside.

  • Tricksterson

    Isn’t that more like the places women would have to go to if abortion was once again illegal?

  • Dan Audy

    Yup.  However, there have been a few legitimate cases of abortion clinics which were filthy and did not adhere to acceptable medical practices that provide fodder for these people to project their (exagerated) faults onto all abortion facilities.  Personally, I think those operators need to bed repeatedly kicked in the gonads since it is a horrible thing to risk the women who didn’t know better or have any alternative’s health and should have been obvious how that would be used if the anti-abortion crew ever found out.  Essentially however what he is trying to do is doom us to the thing he purports to be saving us from.

  • There is a good case to make for legitimate licencing and inspection of abortion clinics, just as there would for any other medical clinic. But there are ways to play games with those rules, I imagine. :(

  • Carstonio

    Even though his goal is obviously to make abortions harder to obtain, that doesn’t mean that he’s invoking the torture chamber image as a propaganda tactic. He could have that goal and still believe completely that abortion clinics are like that.

  • sekushinonyanko

    They are biologically female and choose to take on a traditionally masculine gender role. They have uteri because they are female. Sex is biological, gender is social.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Excuse me, no. Gender is not about gender roles. Gender is not about reproductive organs. Men with uteruses DO EXIST.

  • sekushinonyanko

    Yes gender is about gender roles. That’s why we call them “gender roles,” because they are roles that people take on based on gender. If a person is assigned female at birth, and chooses to take on a male gender role in society, then that person is a transman. The reason for the presence of a uterus is that they are biologically female. The reason we call them a man is because they have taken on that gender role and that is how they live their lives. What makes someone male or female, biologically speaking, is their reproductive organs. That’s why we still assign sex for animals that lack culture, thus by extension lack gender. A female mammal has a uterus with which to carry young, and has breasts that lactate. A male mammal has a penis which is used to impregnate female animals. Humans are mammals. Gender roles are separate from basic biological fact, and are thus mutable in a way that biological sex is not.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Let me put this in little words.

    I have a uterus. I have ovaries. I have breasts. I have a vagina.


    And it’s not because I have chosen to take on a different gender role, either. I am genderfluid; that means my gender changes. There is no gender role for ‘gender changes’. I am usually, and am today, agender. That means my gender is none of the above. There is no gender role for ‘none of the above’.

  • sekushinonyanko

    A person’s gender identification has nothing to do with their physical sex. Your physical sex is female, your gender identification is whatever you say it is.

  • EllieMurasaki


  • sekushinonyanko

    If you don’t know that sex and gender are not the same thing, then I’m not sure what else to say. You have a right to identify yourself the way you choose, that doesn’t mean you get to decide biological reality is not real and yell at me if I don’t go along with you. Your physical body is a real thing, you live in it, and it has certain real characteristics. What these characteristics mean in the context of society is a different question than whether they are or are not what they are or are not.

  • EllieMurasaki

    ‘Sex’ is an action, like ‘jump’. ‘Gender role’ is a societal construct. ‘Gender’ is a state of being. ‘Biological reality’ is you’re deliberately misunderstanding me.

  • sekushinonyanko

    The definition of sex, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
    1 : either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures
    : the sum of the structural, functional, and behavioral characteristics of organisms that are involved in reproduction marked by the union of gametes and that distinguish males and females
    a : sexually motivated phenomena or behaviorb : sexual intercourse
    : genitalia.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Merriam-Webster definition of ‘cisgender’: big fat blank. I do not therefore trust Merriam-Webster to correctly define words related to gender issues.

  • sekushinonyanko

    Well in that case, it’s impossible to tell if we agree or disagree if we aren’t starting from the same definitions.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No, it’s quite easy to tell. You came in here asserting that ‘a trans man is a woman who’s taken on a male gender role’. There are at least three things wrong with the bit in single quotes. You followed that up by asserting that one’s assigned-at-birth gender (which is the actual term for the thing you’re trying to misuse the word ‘sex’ for) is more relevant than one’s actual gender. Couple more things wrong with that. Somewhere in there you said you know more about gender issues in general and my gender issues in specific than I do, when I am the actual genderqueer person in this conversation. And you capped it by asserting that the dictionary is right on a matter where the dictionary is demonstrably (and I demonstrated!) wrong.

    Shut the fuck up and go the fuck away.

  • sekushinonyanko

    After getting an opportunity to sleep on it, I decided that I owe you an apology. We clearly have different ideas on sex and gender that don’t even benefit from coming from a basis of the same assumptions, definitions or interpretations of facts on the matter, so really we’re sort of talking around each other. I don’t like the idea that nothing, not even things specifically relating to female reproductive care, are considered to be something that has something to do with women, and I personally feel like, since biology is static and culture is not, it’s pushing against a brick wall to try to conflate the two in the event one wishes to move them around. But that none of that really necessitates being rude to you; I was in a bad mood and feeling rather pedantic.

    I’m sorry.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Pregnancy and related issues aren’t female issues. They’re female-assigned-at-birth issues. Cis women, trans men, and about half of all genderqueer individuals are female-assigned-at-birth; most but not all FAAB people are female. Just remember that.

    Apology accepted.