In the wake of President Obama's re-election, the public opinion dam has seemingly begun to burst on one hotly-contested social issue: Same-sex unions. Are Americans moving decisively leftward on abortion, too? I spent the last week in Boulder, Colorado at the annual Conference on World Affairs. It's an overwhelmingly liberal crowd, so one of my more challenging tasks was discussing "reproductive rights" on a panel comprised of pro-choice women and me. In order to inoculate myself against the inevitable "you're not a woman" critique, I cited statistics demonstrating that (a) being pro-life is a mainstream, if not majority position; and (b) women are statistically just as likely to be pro-life as pro-choice. I drew on a pair of 2012 polls. The first, from Gallup, recorded a record-low 41 percent of Americans self-identifying as pro-choice, with a +2 pro-life "gender gap" among women. The other was from CNN, which pegged pro-life sentiment at 52 percent overall, with women deadlocked on the issue. Here's a snapshot of the Gallup stats:
Since last fall, however a number of public surveys have detected a lurch to the left on these questions. Rasmussen has measured a fairly sharp turnabout, while NBC/WSJ found a majority in favor of legal abortion in "all or most" circumstances for the first time. But the NBC/WSJ polling partnership released a new poll last week, which I linked in passing. I didn't dig into the numbers too thoroughly beyond Obama's weak approval numbers; luckily, Allahpundit did, and he discovered an about-face on abortion, with the new data reflecting the prevailing attitudes mentioned above:
That's a 52/45 pro-life split, with a sizable plurality (42 percent) embracing most Republicans' mainstream stance. Question, then: Why did pro-choice sentiment spike in late 2012 and early 2013? I'd submit that blanket coverage of Todd Akin's egregious comments really poisoned the well for the pro-life brand. People said to themselves, "I'm not comfortable with abortion in a lot of circumstances, but if that's what they believe, I don't want to be a part of that." This, skeptics of abortion-on-demand went "pro-choice" to avoid being lumped in with the (barely existent) no-exceptions, "legitimate rape," anti-biology crowd. AP also links to a WaPo infographic showing that large majorities support abortions under limited and rare scenarios, including the life of the mother being at risk, rape, and birth defects. On the other hand, near super-majorities oppose abortion for the most common reasons. I'd love to see the numbers on gender-selective abortions -- which House Democrats refused to oppose last year. Or repeats, which account for roughly 50 percent of abortions in America today. Or full-stop infanticide. The vast majority of abortions are obtained for reasons of convenience, and approximately half are performed on women who've terminated at least one previous pregnancy. Pro-lifers faced a backlash when one of their own made ignorant remarks that were covered ad nauseam. Will pro-choicers see the same effect now that one of their extremists is on trial for murdering seven infants and an adult patient? Lurid revelations of newborns being decapitated at birth amidst horrific conditions might be rather bad for business for the abortion industry, which may explain why their media supporters did their level best to bury the Gosnell story. The ghastly truth is finally winning out, thanks to a coordinated PR push from abortion opponents. And it's grisly. It turns out the sanitary conditions were so breathtakingly poor because the Philadelphia clinic never faced inspections...for entirely political reasons. That's why Gosnell felt comfortable keeping his victims' detached feet in jars as trophies; he was confident no one would ever ask questions. Unable to ignore the Gosnell horror any longer, abortion proponents are dismissing it as an isolated instance. As I asked last week, is it?
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography