Abortion remains at the epicenter of America’s culture wars. The issue isn’t black and white either. Americans of every stripe have their own opinion about the procedure. Some are die-hard pro-lifers, while others would lead a Banzai charge to protect a woman’s right to choose. Others might tolerate abortions within the first trimester, but abhor the thought of late-term abortions. The recent release of a series of undercover videos the Center for Medical Progress, allegedly showing the illegal sale of aborted baby parts by Planned Parenthood officials, has reignited the abortion debate.
A new Associated Press/GfK poll found that support for abortion has reached a two-year high, with almost 60 percent of Americans feeling that it should be legal in most cases:
Support for legal abortion in the U.S. has edged up to its highest level in the past two years, with an Associated Press-GfK poll showing an apparent increase in support among Democrats and Republicans alike over the last year.
Nearly six in 10 Americans — 58 percent — now think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 51 percent who said so at the beginning of the year, according to the AP-GfK survey. It was conducted after three people were killed last month in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.
However, just over a third of Americans want laws on abortion to be stricter than they are now, the poll shows, while a quarter think they should be less strict.
While support for legal abortion edged up to 40 percent among Republicans in this month’s poll, from 35 percent in January, the survey found that the GOP remains deeply divided on the issue: Seven in 10 conservative Republicans said they want abortion to be illegal in most or all cases; six in 10 moderate and liberal Republicans said the opposite.
Overall, the poll found, 45 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood, and 30 percent have an unfavorable opinion. A quarter said they don’t know enough about the organization to say.
The poll also included that some respondents feared banning abortion would lead to back-alley procedures, but supported parental notification laws and bans on late-term abortion. Some wanted more restrictive abortion laws, but added that they’re not single-issue voters.
Not surprising is that fact that 76 percent of Democrats think abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 54 percent of Independent voters agree with that sentiment.
Yet, regarding the various angles in this debate, you have people who support a woman’s right to choose, but are unnerved by the fact that anyone can just walk in and have an abortion:
Nefertiti Durant, a 45-year-old independent voter from Columbia, Maryland, sees abortion as more complex matter, calling it “kind of a Catch-22.” She thinks a woman should have the right to choose abortion but she’s “not so keen on the fact that just anybody can go and have an abortion.” She worries that young people may not understand the effects of the procedure, and the “deep issues” that go along with it.
Now, we’ll just have to see about how this poll fares if other surveys have been conducted on this issue. As with anything, if a bad public relations disaster strikes, support drops precipitously. In December 2012, after then-Rep. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, two pro-life candidates, made egregious comments about rape and pregnancy during their respective Missouri and Indiana Senate campaigns–Americans who identify as pro-life fell below 50 percent. In May of that year, self-identified pro-choice Americans were at record lows. Undoubtedly, the Democrats’ war on women narrative surely helped during the 2012 cycle as well. That narrative lost its luster during the 2014 midterms.
Nevertheless, we had a Colorado man open fire on a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs on November 27, where he allegedly said “no more baby parts” to law enforcement officials when he was taken for questioning following his arrest. The shooter, Robert Lewis Dear Jr., was described as a loner, who blurted out that he was a “warrior for the babies” at his arraignment hearing. Dear faces multiple criminal accounts, including eight charges of first-degree murder, assault, burglary, and criminal mischief, according to the Denver Post. Yeah, a possible domestic terrorist incident could shed some negative light on pro-lifers. At the same time, as many have noted before, this is a volatile issue.
As you can see, Americans’ feelings on abortion fluctuate on a wide scale. In 1995, only 33 percent of Americans considered themselves pro-life; by May of 2009, that figure has surged to 51 percent. Moreover, Dear’s actions certainly do not embody the values of the pro-life movement. It’s just pure insanity. If this does become a domestic terrorist incident, conservative should continue to do what they have been doing since this tragic event: condemn it in the strongest ways possible.
Recently, Americans social attitudes have been trending towards the left, which is probably welcome news for those in the Planned Parenthood camp as they plan a $20 million offensive for next year's elections
Yet, since 2001, concerning abortion being morally accepted remains below 50 percent, with the needle only three-percentage points from 42 percent to 45 percent in that time frame. That means a good proportion of Americans might not be as hard-core for abortion rights. In fact, while a majority of Americans feel abortion should be legal, Gallup has also mentioned that supermajorities had favored restrictions on the procedure.
We’ll see how things how recalibrate.