It is no longer a statistical blip; the United States has definitely drifted to the right on the issue of abortion. The latest Fox News issue opinion poll mirrors the movement in the Gallup and the Quinnipiac polls, but the larger question is why? Nancy Gibbs at Time has one theory,
Abortion has forever been blown by electoral trade winds; when the right was in charge, people feared the return of coat hangers in back alleys. Now that the left leads, they fear abortion on demand. The very meaning of the labels adjusts; calling yourself pro-choice at a time when a liberal Democratic President and allies in Congress are lifting abortion restraints may imply no qualms at all, and that’s not where most people are.
But there could be more to the strangely shifting polls than politics. Perhaps in some very important way, the pro life movement is simply winning over the hearts and minds of America. The culture of violent protests at abortion clinics that once defined the movement is now thankfully over. Now the bulk of pro-life energy is being channeled into grassroots efforts, from crisis pregnancy centers to post-abortion counseling. Many of the current crop of megachurches now focus their efforts on these and other like minded projects which serve the dual purpose of seeking to reduce the abortion rate one woman at a time, while also softening the image of the movement overall. Ross Douthat in an editorial piece this past December adds to the picture of a more positive pro life push,
Over the same period, pro-lifers — especially in the evangelical community — have broadened their movement’s ambit, emphasizing poverty, the environment and other non-abortion “life issues” more consistently than an earlier generation did. Leading pro-life figures like Rick Warren are more likely to be photographed touring poor nations alongside Bono than protesting outside abortion clinics.
What is most interesting is that these strong pro life numbers are coming at a time when the Democratic party ID numbers far outweigh the GOP’s. This means that many self described Democrats are admitting to not being pro choice. Is this because of technology- high resolution ultrasound pictures? Or is this because of the absence of the threat of back alley abortions- back-alley talk may be politically untenable, in a way that it wasn’t 35 years ago? Regardless, the young voters the pro-life movement has won over are likely to stay pro-life.
Maybe the abortion issue will change from being a starkly right vs left debate into a more rational human debate?
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