Perhaps the biggest achievement of the anti-abortion movement in America is that, 30 years after Roe v. Wade, it is still vigorously, prominently here. Most Supreme Court decisions acquire legitimacy with age, but even Americans who support legalized abortion remain deeply uncomfortable with this act. According to an analysis of public opinion on abortion by Gallup, a majority of Americans have taken the middle position, saying abortion should be legal "only under certain circumstances." In the mid-'90s, public opinion abruptly shifted in a pro-life direction, apparently in response to the partial-birth abortion issue. Today, according to Gallup, only about a quarter of Americans think abortion should be legal in all circumstances.
Majorities of Americans support legal abortion only for medical, not social, reasons. Yet this year, in the richest society human beings have ever known, one out of four of our young will be killed before birth. This is progress?
In a June 2000 Los Angeles Times poll, Americans were asked to choose between these two statements: "Abortion is the same thing as murdering a child," or "Abortion is not murder because the fetus really isn't a child." Fifty-seven percent of Americans likened abortion to murdering a child.
Americans who support abortion do so reluctantly because they think it is a necessary evil. In the long run, reversing the abortion culture launched by Roe will require persuading Americans that pitting mothers against their unborn children is not a good way to help either.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
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