29 June 2009 — Vol. 12 / No. 19
According to the New York Times, it doesn’t really matter,
because you probably don’t understand the terms anyway.
According to the Times the recent Gallup Poll showing that
a majority of Americans are pro-life is faulty at best, and downright
sinister at worst.
The poll, conducted May 7-10, found that 51% of Americans are now
“calling themselves ‘pro-life’ on the issue of
abortion and 42% ‘pro-choice.’” According to Gallup, this
is “the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified
themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in
Not only did Gallup find these results to be consistent in two
other surveys (the details can be found on Gallup’s web site here),
they also gave a rather forthright opinion as to why they thought this
shift was occurring. President Obama’s radical policies, Gallup said,
are actually alienating many Americans who would consider themselves
to be “pro-choice,” causing them to shift over toward the
It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama
has pushed the public’s understanding of what it means to be
“pro-choice” slightly to the left, politically. While Democrats may
support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as
president, it may be driving others in the opposite
This sounds quite reasonable to me. Having a president who is
radically pro-abortion might well cause the significant shift in
opinions concerning abortion that Gallup detected.
Liberal opinion leaders, however, have been quick to condemn the
poll as faulty, irrelevant, or simplistic.
“Young people are not suddenly turning prolife,” scoffs
Ruth Coniff of The Progressive. “They just view the
abortion issue differently. The fact that we grew up in the era of
safe, legal abortion makes women under the age of 50 a bit complacent
about the issue.”
Mark Mellman of The Hill agrees, saying that
“typically, after some useless result escapes into the ether,
reporters and interest groups proceed to spin some new theory of
public opinion based on faulty analysis of a meaningless
Dalia Sussman of the New York Times goes even further.
She first says that it “does not necessarily indicate a marked
shift in Americans’ views on this highly complicated issue.”
Then she cites other polling data done by different agencies to show
how the numbers vary. She concludes by insulting the people Gallup
polled, saying that “there is no way of knowing whether people
being asked the question even know what the two labels
The shift in polling data—and the liberals’ efforts to
discredit it—is cast into sharp relief by President Obama’s recent
address at Notre Dame. The President, in his speech, expressed the
hope that pro-life and pro-choice advocates could find “common
ground” on the subject of abortion.
“Let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking
abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more
available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their
child to term,” said Obama. “Let’s honor the conscience of
those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience
clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are
grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the
equality of women.”
This speech, which is full of such glowing, hopeful rhetoric, rings
hollow when compared with Obama’s record. What in the world does he
mean by a “sensible conscience clause”, given that he has
already struck down existing conscience provisions?
Obama’s rhetorical flourishes are cited ad nauseam by the
media as evidence of “bipartisan progress,” but they are
actually little more than deceptive propaganda.
Pro-lifers have not, and will not, be lulled to sleep by such
mouthings. We realize that human life is at stake. We agree that
women should have better gynecological care; that there should be
fewer teen pregnancies, that there should be more adoption. We agree
that women should be happy and safe and free. But we will not
willingly allow anyone to take a human life, which is what an abortion
It is thus ludicrous to suggest that the two sides “work
together” on the issue of abortion. There can be no common
ground on the morality of abortion..
I believe that, contra the New York Times, those surveyed by the
Gallup poll knew exactly what they were being asked when they were
questioned on whether or not they were “pro-life” or
“pro-choice.” The terms outline positions that have
existed on our political landscape for more than 30 years. To suggest
that somehow, the idea of the pro-life movement is shifting, becoming
more oriented around issues that “really matter,” like
women’s health or reproductive freedom, is naïve.
And to President Obama: it’s our movement, you can join us if you
like, but the terms of the debate are already well defined, and are
not subject to redefinition.
Colin Mason is the Director of Media Production at
Population Research Institute.