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Ugly Poll Results on Reproductive Choice

by Dan Burns on May 24, 2012 · 1 comment

Most un-righteous.  Yeah, it’s Gallup polling, and there are a lot of good reasons why that has long since ceased to be regarded as anything like the gold standard for assessing public opinion, but still…

The 41% of Americans who now identify themselves as “pro-choice” is down from 47% last July and is one percentage point below the previous record low in Gallup trends, recorded in May 2009. Fifty percent now call themselves “pro-life,” one point shy of the record high, also from May 2009.

This is representative of the counter-argument that I’ve seen in several places.

So a large majority-77 percent-of Americans support abortion being legal in all or “certain circumstances,” and just 20 percent of Americans are actually “pro-life” in the sense that opponents of legalized abortion understand the term. Another way of saying this is that most Americans are actually pro-choice even if they sometimes identify as pro-life. In fact, there are more Americans who think abortion should be legal in all circumstances (25 percent) than think it should be illegal in all circumstances (20 percent).

That’s good news for someone, but not for people who want to outlaw abortion.

I am a huge fan of the work done at Mother Jones, but I think that that article comes across as a bit of a whitewash.  “Legal under certain circumstances” often means “Only if the woman or girl can prove that she is a victim of rape or incest, or if her life is endangered.”  That’s not what I call being in favor of reproductive rights, or necessarily even being opposed to pretty draconian policy blocking  privacy and choice.

How do you shift overall public attitudes to strong pro-choice positions?  I don’t know.  Gruesome images of fetuses are unfortunately effective, for the forced-birth propagandists, as are suggestions that “responsible” people never have to deal with unplanned pregnancies, and those who aren’t “responsible,” don’t deserve options.  (“Responsible” is a very loaded word, in this context.)

More below the fold.
There is a total lack of any rational basis for the claim that fetuses are independent, sentient “life.”  But the problem, as in so much else, is that many people aren’t even interested in trying to be rational, from any objective standpoint.  They unthinkingly equate an insensate lump of protoplasm the size of a pea with an adorable newborn, gurgling and cooing in its crib, and therefore “abortion is murder.”

The suggestion that one sees a lot, and it is a valid one, is that we focus on the “soft middle.”  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be that much of one, on this issue.  And most of what soft middle there is, doesn’t much seem to want to think about it, much less talk.

The relatively good news in all of this, is that there is a general lack of support for overturning Roe v. Wade.  Only about a third, at best, explicitly favor that. (More here.  And I don’t know, either, why Gallup apparently stopped asking about that, after 2008.  And I have to note, that you can see, on the first page of that, disheartening levels of support for other restrictions.)

Again, as in so much else, things are unlikely to get substantially better until we’ve ended conservatism as a significant influence in social, political, and economic policy.  That’s the glorious goal that keeps me going, anyway. Because one of the main functions of a valid government, is to protect individual rights, whether or not either a driven minority, or a placid majority, of a too-often misinformed and dogmatic populace, “thinks” otherwise.

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