Abortion according to Gallup

I'll say this quickly and then duck: there are honest, intelligent people of genuine good will in both the liberal and conservative camps. 

While I consider myself pro-life, I make a conscious effort to assume that a pro-choice person I encounter is motivated by compassion for women who find themselves in difficult situations and on the rare occasions when it's possible to overcome initial prejudice to the contrary I try to establish that in that we have common ground and that our difference lies elsewhere. Then I try to make my concerns clear- that I, too, am motivated by compassion. When actual, relatable human beings replace the stereotypes of each other we tend to have in our heads, rational dialog becomes possible for the first time.

There. Now that the barrage of tomatoes from both sides of the political spectrum has subsided, I'll go on.

No, pro-life folks don't "hate women;" in fact, according to some surveys, they're more likely to actually be women than not.  And despite the recent burst of enthusiasm for late-term  abortion in some circles, it seems that it doesn't extend to an awful lot of pro-choice Americans:

Three observations about the graph above. The first is that abortion is never necessary to safeguard the life of the mother when the fetus is even marginally viable; Caesarian delivery is safer at that point even for the mother. Third-semester abortions to safeguard the mother's life are a red herring, though a useful one for extremists since there are always ideologically-motivated doctors willing to medically certify almost anything. The Kermit Gosnells of this nation are rare but not rare enough. In this, as in so much else these days, ideology sometimes trumps integrity.

If you're not familiar with the Gosnell case, I'd encourage you to click on the link above carrying Dr. Gosnell's name. Lest there be any thought that what you will find is extreme or overstated or "spun," consider that it links to an article on Snopes, the hoax-debunking site. Dr. Gosnell is now where he belongs- in prison. I think it might provide some additional insight as to why some of us are so upset about recent efforts to defend third-trimester abortions even when they are medically certified as necessary even by definition they simply are not. All of us would like to think that there are certain professions- medicine and the clergy being two- whose practitioners are by definition above reproach. Sadly- and I say this as a former clergyman who is all too aware of all of my colleagues of all denominations who have quite publically and quite spectacularly missed the mark - there simply are no such professions.

The second is that I'm a little shocked that only 83% of us think that abortion should be available when the mother's life is endangered in the first trimester. A genuine threat to the life of the mother is the one exception the pro-life movement and most conservative Christians make to their opposition to legalized abortion. It seems that there are extremists in both camps. Of course, it should be borne in mind that Roman Catholic opposition to abortion does not recognize an exception where the mother's life is threatened; perhaps that explains why 17% of us oppose that exception or are not sure.

The third is one I've made before: there is a consensus here- and it's not the one Roe v. Wade attempts to artificially establish. Nor is it the one the leftist-dominated media has tried to convince us exists. More than that, even a glance at Gallup's historical findings show that roughly the same consensus has always existed in this country, even when the Supreme Court was justifying Roe on the inaccurate ground that no such consensus existed.  Americans generally have favored the legality of abortion in the first trimester, though with considerable reluctance when, as in most cases, it's used simply as a form of birth control.

As the pregnancy progresses, we as a nation become more and more reluctant to countenance abortion.

A presidential candidate who ran next year on a program of modifying abortion law to reflect our national consensus would, in a sense, be talking through his or her hat. I expect the newly-conservative Supreme Court to eventually modify- not overturn- Roe to bring it into closer conformity with that consensus. The Court- and neither the president nor Congress- will make that call. But pro-life friends argue that the entire logic of our position demands that, with the exception of a threat to the mother's life, abortion should be abolished. Either human life is sacred, or it is not.

I agree with that logic, but I think they miss the point. Whatever the Court does, people on both sides of the abortion controversy and of all possible positions on the matter will have not only the right but, I would argue, the civic obligation to continue to argue that the position should be modified further to reflect their own viewpoint. The fight to win the nation over to the pro-life side can and should and will continue, no matter what. Bill Clinton's efforts to rally the nation behind an imaginary pro-abortion consensus and put the issue outside the realm of political debate were never more than wishful thinking.  It's not going to happen. It can't happen- at least as long as the First Amendment remains in force and an ounce of moral discernment remains in the American character.

But consider this: if abortion were illegal except in cases of rape, incest, and a threat to the life of the mother, at one stroke 98% of the abortions performed annually in this country would be made illegal.  While the same problem exists at all stages of pregnancy that exists also in the first trimester- "health" is a broad enough category to include stress and unhappiness, and in any case, politically-motivated doctors sometimes lie- I would be interested to see how many abortions would be prevented in that case even if the mother's health (as broadly as the term is generally defined with regard to abortion) were included among the reasons for early legal abortions.

It would be a proposal which would have overwhelming popular support, the radical feminists would be exposed for the extremists they are- and it's a place to start. And any way you look at it, it would be a huge improvement on the status quo.


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