Abortion Polling Suggests Room to Win Hearts
Roe needs to go. But that won’t be the end.
Like many IFA readers, I pray that the infamous 1973 Roe v Wade ruling — so long an anchor for largely unfettered abortion in our country — will finally be overturned. A hope for a culture that honors God’s gift of life is what drew me to public policy decades ago, and the end of Roe would be a great legal victory in that quest.
However, Roe did not start the battle over abortion, and its demise won’t end it. In many ways, Roe short-circuited our nation’s grappling with this serious matter, and without Roe the debate will likely intensify.
But signals show that is a conversation worth winsomely engaging.
Media and political professionals often paint the public’s views of abortion in simplistic terms. You have a binary choice. You’re either for it or against it. You’re either “pro-life” or “pro-choice” (actually, many in the media reveal their bias by preferring to say “anti-abortion rights” or not). Yet the debate in the hearts and minds of Americans is much more complicated.
I was reminded of this when viewing of the results of a non-scientific poll conducted by a publication in my community. It found that of the 260 readers who responded to its quick open-access survey, the vast majority supported Roe (for the record, I was a respondent and wasn’t among the majority). That by itself was not particularly surprising nor interesting to me. What I did notice was the split among those who did or did not favor abortion restrictions in the various trimesters of pregnancy. Specifically, 80 percent of the 260 respondents said abortion should be legal in ALL cases in the first three months. But then that abortion-on-demand number dropped to about 30 percent in the second trimester. Most saw a need for limitations in the second trimester, and even more in the last three months before birth.
Again, remembering this survey was not scientific, the specific percentages are not as important to me as the underlying pulse they suggest. In particular, I wondered about those who jumped between all-out support for abortion to a caveated support later in pregnancy. My own pro-life resolve flows from my belief that life is a precious gift and that all people are made in the image of God. What was their logic?
It’s puzzling, but in a way encouraging. If trimesters made a difference for these Roe supporters there must be a sense in them that the child has value. There must be room for conversation and heart-change here.
By the way, this also appears to be the case if you look into scientific polls willing to explore beyond simple questions about Roe. For example, an annual Marist Poll has regularly revealed a desire among many Americans for abortion to be restricted to at most the first trimester of pregnancy. In 2022, 71 percent of respondents indicated as much — including 93 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Independents, and 49 percent of Democrats.
Similarly, a Pew Research Center survey from March 2022 found that “relatively few Americans on either side of the debate take an absolutist view on the legality of abortion – either supporting or opposing it at all times, regardless of circumstances.”
Similar to other surveys, Pew found 61 percent of respondents believed abortion should generally be legal. But Pew dug in more deeply and then found that more than half of that “pro-choice” cohort also believed that how far along a pregnancy is should matter for its permissibility. Like the unscientific survey of my local publication, Pew’s statistics show that support for abortion generally erodes as trimesters advance.
Pew also found that 47 percent of respondents believed abortion is morally wrong in all or most cases. And, perhaps even more striking, nearly a quarter of those in the pro-choice cohort at least somewhat resonated with the idea that “human life begins at conception, so a fetus is a person with rights.”
Again, this is remarkable — even puzzling. But it’s also encouraging. The complicated view of this serious matter among so many gives me hope. It suggests to me that we are a people who deep down know that all lives — including prenatal children — have intrinsic value. It gives me hope that hearts can be won to the cause of embracing a culture honoring God’s gift of life.
Are you encouraged by this article? If so, share it with your friends and family to encourage them!
Aaron Mercer is a Contributing Writer with two decades of experience in Washington, D.C.’s public policy arena. Photo Credit: Getty Images.
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