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