Jacob Sullum

By Kline's own account, his anti-abortion activism was the main reason for his defeat. Morrison called the outcome "a victory for Kansans who want to make sure their most private personal records are kept private." Yet Kline claimed he sought the records as evidence of illegal late-term abortions, which you'd think would count as a good enough reason for self-identified pro-lifers, some of whom nevertheless seem to have voted against him, or at least failed to vote for him.

National polling data reinforce the point that pro-lifers are not necessarily absolutists. Between 40 percent and 45 percent of Americans call themselves "pro-life." But in a July survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, only 24 percent of respondents said abortion is "nearly always morally wrong." Even more surprising, various polls have found majorities as large as 66 percent against overturning Roe.

The other side of the coin is that Americans who describe themselves as "pro-choice" may nevertheless support restrictions on abortion. This month voters in California (the fifth most "pro-choice" state) and Oregon (the 13th) rejected initiatives requiring that parents be notified when their minor children seek abortions. But the margins were much smaller than they would have been if every self-described pro-choicer had voted no.

While voters' general inclinations clearly make a difference, they do not always predict their positions on specific abortion laws. There is more common ground than the stark pro-life/pro-choice divide suggests.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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