Do most Americans support the right to abortion?
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in a Mississippi case that could upend abortion rights, a narrative has resurfaced that America is united as a ‘pro-choice nation. “.
This argument was most recently found in an op-ed on the CNN website. In a trial titled “Why to Overthrow Roe v. Wade would be a disaster for the conservatives, “Jill Filipovic described abortion as” a matter of basic health care “and cited the findings of a recent ABC News / Washington Post poll as” Despite the political treatment of abortion As a controversial partisan issue, the truth is that America is a pro-choice nation. “
Filipovic’s voice is not a voice that can be easily dismissed. She is widely followed on social networks and after having been a senior political editor for Cosmopolitan magazine and author of “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk, How My Generation Got Left Behind”, she has established herself as a sort of spokesperson for young feminists.
Baby boomers remember that using the words “senior political editor” and “Cosmopolitan magazine” in the same sentence would have been fodder for a stand-up routine. But let’s leave that aside to consider the central idea: is it true that America is a “pro-choice nation”?
To make his point, Filipovic puts forward the ABC / Washington Post results that a majority of Americans say the decision to abort should be between a woman and her doctor, not the state. The poll also found majority support (60%) for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion.
But a closer look at the numbers by political affiliation shows that disproportionate enthusiasm for Roe is only found among Democrats, 82% of whom support Roe.
The independents, at 58%, are closer to Republicans (42%) on the subject than to Democrats. And they are equidistant from the two parties when it comes to seeing Roe overthrown: 28% of Independents would like Roe to overthrow, compared to 45% of Republicans and 11% of Democrats.
America is pro-choice – and today’s Bans Off Our Bodies for Roe gathering helped make it clear that Delaware is pro-choice too. pic.twitter.com/yKNy2PyMbV
– Senator Sarah McBride (@SarahEMcBride) October 2, 2021
The biggest problem with America’s “pro-choice” cheerleaders, however, is that when Americans are specifically asked to identify themselves as “pro-choice” or “pro-life,” they are. , in fact, almost equally divided.
While Gallup touted a “record” percentage of Americans who considered abortion morally acceptable earlier this year, the difference between no’s and yes’s was 1 percentage point. (Forty-seven percent the said abortion is morally admissible; 46% said no.) In the same survey, 49% of Americans self-identified as pro-choice, compared to 47% as pro-life. A two point advantage does not make for a “pro-choice nation”.
The 2021 ballot was not aberrant either.
According to Gallup: “Since 1998, an average of 47% of American adults consider themselves pro-choice and 46% pro-life. Between 1995 and 1997, the public leaned more for choice (52%) than for life (38%), on average.
In other words, the narrative might as well be: the American public is more pro-life now than we were a quarter of a century ago. This is a truth that is not often reported in part because journalists have long been instructed not to use the terms “pro-life” or “pro-choice”, but rather to write about ” supporters of the right to abortion ”and“ opponents of abortion ”. There is a good reason for this – to do otherwise implies that supporters of the right to abortion are against life in general, or that opponents of abortion are against moral action. There are, in fact, a lot of good and moral people on the opposite sides of this debate.
But this nomenclature can also be confusing, for example thinking that America is a pro-choice nation, when clearly the picture is much more muddled. What we are is a contentious, but well-meaning, mass of people who fundamentally disagree about whether abortion is a medical act or a homicide.