Because the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” labels have become so subjective, Americans are increasingly identifying with a particular label when, in reality, they don’t fall under that camp at all.
Donald Trump has stated he is pro-life with exceptions (rape, incest and life of the mother). He has also stated seriously radical positions that hardly anyone in the pro-life movement would agree with, like women who seek illegal abortions should be punished. He also said that the “laws are set" on abortion and that the legality of it should go back to the states.
Last May, Gallup released a poll that touted the headline “Americans Choose ‘Pro-Choice’ for First Time in Seven Years.” The poll said that half of Americans say they pro-choice, while only 44 percent self-identify as pro-life.
While on the surface, it looks like more Americans are self-identifying as pro-choice than pro-life, when a closer look is taken at exactly what they favor, those numbers tell a different story.
Nineteen percent of respondents said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances and 36 percent said it should be legal in only a few circumstances. Those two groups of respondents equal a pro-life majority at 55 percent total, while people that said abortion should be legal in all and most circumstances amount to 42 percent.
So Donald Trump isn’t the only person confused on abortion, although he is probably in a camp of his own when it comes to stating his position.
Americans may be misidentifying themselves when it comes to the matter of abortion since a majority clearly support significant restrictions on abortion. For millennials in particular, as a group that works with over 930 student pro-life groups, we see students misidentifying themselves all the time on campuses across the country, which is why we no longer ask them if they are pro-life or pro-choice. They don’t know, nor do they care, what the labels mean. Instead, when we are on campus, we plainly ask students whether or not they support legal abortion or how long into a pregnancy they tolerate abortion.
There is a huge disconnect in national conversation about abortion. Many people think they may be labeled as one thing and, in actuality, identify more with something else.
Part of this disconnect has been the political left's attempt to confuse the labels. Remember when Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator who filibustered a law to ban abortions after preborn babies can feel pain, declared she was actually pro-life in the Texas gubernatorial race?
It shows how little time those of us in the pro-life movement have actually spent trying to define our pro-life brand, while letting others do it for us as we scramble to promote and fundraise for our individual organizations.
In 2014, Planned Parenthood advocated dropping the pro-choice label, saying publicly it didn’t really mean anything any longer and privately that it was associated with the negative connotations of abortion. So they went broader and began using code terms such as “women’s health” and “reproductive freedom.”
With the labels of pro-life and pro-choice falling by the wayside and the GOP frontrunner for the presidential nomination saying he’s pro-life one day and supports existing abortion laws the next, what are we to do?
It’s time to speak plainly, stop using vague language and have an honest and open conversation about abortion and when it should be legal.
The pro-life movement needs to take back the brand and proudly declare what the term means.
Being pro-life is about empowering women and providing resources to those facing unplanned pregnancies. It centers around the belief that abortion is the taking of innocent life and that abortion is not acceptable at any point in the pregnancy. It means believing there are two victims in every abortion – the mother and the baby. It means that we want to see abortion made unthinkable and illegal.