Monday, May 18, 2009

Gallup: Majority of Americans Pro-Life

Here's a topic I rarely (if ever) have addressed on this blog: abortion. Every year since 1995, the Gallup organization has polled Americans for their opinion on abortion. This year marks the first time in the history of the poll that the majority of respondents (and, by statistical projection, the majority of Americans) identified themselves as pro-life.

Spoiler Delay Alert: I'm gonna withhold discussion of my personal beliefs on this issue until the end of this post.

My first reaction to seeing the graph at left was to think this must be some kind of statistical fluke. However, Gallup has presented a detailed breakdown of the respondents that shows this sudden swing in majority opinion is actually due to several underlying trends that have played out for years. For instance, liberal opinions on abortion have changed very little (if at all) since 2000, while conservatives are trending more and more pro-life as the years have passed. Moderates, on the other hand, have oscillated back and forth.

When given options from the extremes (no legal abortion, abortion legal in all circumstances) to more moderate positions (abortion legal in few circumstances, abortion legal in most circumstance), the largest chunk of Americans favor limiting abortion to only a few circumstances.

Now me: I'm confessed at how well this survey reflects my own beliefs. As my blog name may suggest, I identify as a moderate. I'm a registered independent. And I, just like other moderates surveyed by Gallup, have vacillated on my opinion of abortion. I was brought up in a culture that treated abortion as a black-and-white issue--or rather, as just a "black" issue: I was taught it is wrong in all circumstances. But I have seen more shades of gray in the issue over time.

But not too many shades. I've actually given a lot of thought to abortion over the last few months. Why? Well, because I have frequently seen abortion protests outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Champaign, Illinois. Much of my internal struggle has been over the extremes--I think because I used to see this as a black-and-white issue and feel I must see this as 100% legal or 100% illegal. But I have not found peace with either extreme conviction. Rather, I find peace somewhere in between.

I like the concise three-point position Bill Clinton argued in his campaigns for president (and echoed, albeit somewhat less succinctly, by Barack Obama last fall): I want abortion to be safe; I want it to be legal; and I want it to be rare.

If I were presented with the Gallup poll today, I wound respond that I believe abortion should be legal, but only in a few circumstances. I'm not sure if that makes me pro-choice or pro-life. Hmm.

How about you? What do you believe?

POST SCRIPT: More thoughts. I am a gay man. I cannot (or perhaps I should say I will not voluntarily LOL) reproduce. Like many other gays and lesbians out there, and like many childless heterosexuals out there, I would like to adopt children. But I've heard hell stories about how hard it is to adopt newly born children--in the first place, few infants are put up for adoption and in the second place, the process of becoming and adoptive parent is long, complicated, and expensive.

Perhaps we should redirect some of the political campaign expense on resolving the 100% legal/100% illegal issue to political efforts to encourage and facilitate adoptions. What if women with unwanted pregnancies were given the option of all-expenses-paid pregnancies should they choose to put the child up for adoption upon birth? What if the adoption process could be reformed and streamlined?

hat tip: my husband


Selly said...

"What if women with unwanted pregnancies were given the option of all-expenses-paid pregnancies should they choose to put the child up for adoption upon birth?"

Except that there is never really a shortage of kids who need to be adopted. Unless you must have a new baby. But that's an entirely different story.

In general though, I do agree with your three points. That's mostly where I stand on abortion.

Joe Moderate said...

(warning: completely unbased, unsubstantiated thought to follow) perhaps if more kids were adopted at birth there would be fewer kids needing adoption later in life...

Anonymous said...

I would actually say that I have swung more liberal in this area, contrary to what the Gallup Poll says. (beware rant to begin) Pregnancy, even when in the best of circumstances, is extremely disruptive for a women. How would you feel if your belly suddenly expanded to three times its normal size and you lost the ability to control when you must go to the toilet or release gas into the atmosphere. Not to mention the inability to sleep, acid reflux, and increased risk of diabetes. To women excited about a child, these are but minor inconveniences necessary to start a family. For a single women trying to start a career, these events can be quite traumatic. I can not imagine forcing a woman to endure that, even when supported by another.

As for the adoption debate, I agree with Selly, there are more than enough children that need homes but I also agree that the cost of adoption is incredibly expensive. (however I will gander that its not much more expensive than paying for an all-expenses paid pregnancy.)


Brandon said...

I'm not a fan of abortion at all. To see how it's done should be enough to make anyone sick. But that aside, I do see where in some circumstances it might be okay, like if the mother is in serious risk of dying due to the pregnancy or if their is something drastically wrong with the baby. On that last point, I'm still a little weary though. I have heard of parents who were pressured to have an abortion because their doctor detected something wrong with the baby, the parents refused, and then the child was born perfectly healthy. Had the parents listened to the doctor, they would have killed a perfectly healthy baby. I just can't help but feeling as though abortion is wrong all the way around.

Brandon said...


I can't resist arguing against your point. If the single career-minded woman doesn't want a child, I suggest she use contraceptives or not have sex at all. Abortion should not be a form of birth control.

Anonymous said...

CEF said

..Rant begins..

I don't think that abortion should be used as birth control, women should use other birth control methods and abortion should be rarely used.

However, I should bring up some issues with birth control. Insurance companies are not required to cover the cost of birth control for women. Basic birth control pills start at $10 a month, but those are the pills that must be taken every day at the exact time to even be 90% effective. Less error prone methods such as the patch and Nuvaring start at $20 a month on subsized university plans and increase to $80 a month for the full cost. Even if a women has an insurance company that covers birth control, pharmacists can still refuse to fill it. If a woman can obtain pharmaceutical based birth control, many can produce very negative side effects (increased risk of stroke, depression, osteoporosis, etc) in a small percentage of the population and produce minor side effects (weight gain and decreased sexual desire. Condoms are only effective if the man uses it properly (female condoms exist but are difficult to find). So birth control methods exist, but are far from perfect and do not always prevent pregnancy. I argue that abortion should be available as a last resort when the above methods fail.

To make abortion rare, birth control for males and females must be readily available and cheap (females especially since their bodies carry the child). Many pro-lifers support restricting access to both abortion and birth control, which only exacerbates the need for abortions. In reality, women of limited means have two options; don't have sex or have sex only with women.

Towards the point of seeing how an abortion is done, I say that watching a birth is pretty disgusting as well. We have just been conditioned to enjoy the cries of a bloody baby as it emerges from the birth canal. (We should as procreation is necessary for the advancement of the species.)

..rant ends..

I didn't realize how passionate I felt about this subject until I tried to post on it. The reason I posted anonymously is because my id links back to my publicly available blog, which is available to students and my professors. Most of you know who I am and I will glady discuss this issue with you at another time.

Newscrazy said...

Just because there are a plethora of kids in the adoption system already, doesn't mean we should sway anyone TOWARD abortion AWAY from adoption. There are many capable and loving parents who cannot adopt because it is illegal for them. There are approximately 30 million same-sex couples in this country who could give AT LEAST 30 million children a loving and safe home. I for one want at least 3! In at least two states it is ILLEGAL for me to adopt. In many others, a majority of the adoption agencies are church-affiliated and refuse gay adoption as a matter of policy. Then there is the matter of cost--adopting an American baby is a struggle and an expensive feat and requires years and years of legal haranguing. Adopting babies from abroad has its risks as well: a growing number of Russian born babies sent to the US are being found to have F.A.S. at an alarming rate. I think that we should, as a nation, take a look at the adoption process and reform it to make it easier for capable and loving perspective parents to adopt the children that so desperately need them.

That said, I am not pro-choice because of adoption, I am pro-choice because our culture STILL--for all of its progress--has not been able to safeguard our women from sexual crime and abuse, and dis-empower them when it comes to sex. Every ten seconds, a woman is the victim of rape, incest or sexual violence. Even if its not a case of rape, women who have been coerced into sex, or mislead by despicable men are left holding the bag when those men callously disregard them. I believe that very few abortions are matters of vanity or cavalier disregard for life. I know that most women come to that decision with a great deal of difficulty and uncertainty, and only do so out of desperation. I think that abortion is a societal ill that we need to make very rare, but it is a societal ill borne of a society where a majority of its members (its women) are still second tier on the power-ladder--ESPECIALLY the sexual power-ladder. Men hold all the cards in sex, and this can be detrimental and life-changing for our women--especially our YOUNG WOMEN whom are constantly taken advantage of by older predators. I've known at least three women who have had to make this terrible choice, and in every case it was a case of young, scared girl taken advantage of by an older predator man who knew better. I think we should bring back castration as a punishment. That might help things out!

D.J. Free! said...

i too have been re-thinking this issue since my departure from evangelical expressions of Christianity. after a very lengthy convo with my boy a few months ago, i've really decided that this is an issue i cannot move on. for many years, i've considered it risky to reverse roe v. wade, so am in favor of legalized abortions, but feel they should only be acceptable in very limited circumstances.