The abortion debate is a shape shifter, its contours twisted by politics, culture, timing and the very language pollsters use when they ask people how they feel. So when the folks at Gallup announced that for the first time more Americans are pro-life than pro-choice, there are all kinds of ways to misunderstand what that means.
By Nancy Gibbs
First and foremost are the labels, which cloud the issue by oversimplifying it – that’s why the advocates picked them. Most people are neither pro-choice nor pro-life, but both; we cherish life, we value choice, and we trade them off with great reluctance. Good luck explaining that to someone politely requesting a binary answer over the phone.
But if we place any stock at all in those labels, something dramatic has happened. In 1995, when Gallup started asking the question, the split was 56-33 in favor of abortion rights. Now the lines have crossed, and 51% call themselves pro-life while only 42% say pro-choice. It’s a shift that stretches past personal convictions and into legal constraints. For 35 years, a majority of Americans have wanted abortion to be, essentially, legal with limits. But the movement towards greater restraint is clear. In the mid 90s, when pro-choice forces were especially dominant, only 12% believed abortion was always wrong: that number has nearly doubled. At either extreme, slightly more people now believe abortion should be illegal under all circumstances (23%) than legal under all circumstances (22%). (See a TIME graphic on the growth of crisis pregnancy centers.)
So what’s changed? Gallup attributes the new numbers to Republicans purifying their views: 70% now call themselves pro-life, up 10 points in a year. But that’s to be expected; when fewer people call themselves Republican, the party condenses into a pool of true believers. It’s the people in the middle who are constantly weighing which restrictions are reasonable. A new Pew poll finds that while a majority of independents said abortion should be legal in most cases as recently as October, just 44% do so now. This may inspire some introspection on the part of political operatives in both parties who attribute the Republicans’ present frailty to its orthodoxy on social issues. The GOP may have fielded some hapless messengers, but their message, on abortion at least, may be closer to the mainstream than Democrats care to acknowledge.
Read the rest:
From Fox News
President Obama is “in the minority” with his abortion views, the leader of a group protesting the president’s Notre Dame commencement address said Sunday.
Rev. Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, told “FOX News Sunday” that the reason students and Catholic leaders are protesting Notre Dame’s decision to award an honorary degree to Obama is because they believe it’s the latest indication that the country is “trivializing abortion.”
Pavone was reacting to a new Gallup poll that shows more Americans calling themselves “pro-life” than “pro-choice,” by 51-to-42 percent, for the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 1995. A recent FOX News poll also showed more people describing themselves as pro-life for the first time since 2004.
“The nation is becoming more and more pro-life and they’re realizing that … abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy is just not where the American people are today, it’s not where they’ve ever been,” Pavone said. “The president’s position on this is in the minority.”
Even if Obama is in the minority on the issue, supporters of his address Sunday on the Notre Dame campus say that’s no reason to protest his visit.
The Rev. Richard McBrien, a theology professor at Notre Dame, told “FOX News Sunday” that the invitation “in no way” connotes support for all his positions. But he said Obama stands with the Catholic Church on other key issues.
“There are other positions he has taken, whether it’s on immigration or poverty or whatever, which are entirely consistent with Catholic social teaching,” he said. “If we required 100 percent agreement with the Catholic Church of official teaching from everyone who speaks at or gets an honorary degree from a Catholic University we would not then have any politician from either party.”
A small but vocal group of students and Catholic leaders staged protests against the president’s address Sunday. Pavone had planned to lead a prayer vigil with students in response to the speech.