There was some new research out last week that is good news for those committed to the preservation of life.
According to the Pew Research Center, Americans are now evenly divided on whether or not abortion should be legal “in all or most circumstances.” A year ago, abortion advocates outnumbered pro-lifers by a margin of 54-41 percent. Today, that gap has narrowed to 47-45 percent, a difference within the poll’s margin of error.
In May, Gallup released similar findings, indicating that 51% of Americans identified themselves as “pro-life.” Some media reports have attempted to downplay this latest round of news, suggesting that historical data reflects a stronger or steadier level of support for legalized abortion. Many outlets have ignored the story all-together.
Pew researchers are standing firmly behind their release. “The size of the shift is modest, but the consistency with which we see it occurring and the implications it has for the overall dynamics of the debate make it significant,” reported Gregory Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Officials did not offer any specific reasons for the “new” findings. I have a few ideas.
Polls are fickle things, with their results often dependent upon how and when a question is asked—and who is asking it. Some are suspicious about the large swing of opinion in such a short period of time. Fair enough. There’s always the chance the data was inflated a year ago. There’s also a chance it’s inflated this year, too. But I don’t think so.
I believe the latest findings reflect America’s solid opposition to not just abortion, but also abortion coverage being included in President Obama’s universal healthcare legislation. Conventional wisdom suggests that the only reason support for legalized abortion is down because opposition to a Democratic president is up, pending legislation notwithstanding. Maybe not.
The numbers suggest opposition to abortion has grown on both sides of the aisle. According to Pew: “Among Republicans, there has been a seven point decline in support for legal abortion and a corresponding six point increase in opposition to abortion. But the change is smaller among Democrats, whose support for legal abortion is down four points…”
Of course, time will tell us if these latest findings suggest there is sustained momentum towards a culture of life. If not the way to bet, it’s certainly the way to pray. Our work on this matter doesn’t rise or fall on the pulse of public opinion. As the old saying goes, “It’s never wrong to do what’s right and never right to do what’s wrong”—regardless of any poll.
In my heart of hearts, I’ve long believed that more Americans are pro-life than are not. Simply put, we know what’s right. We also want to do what’s right. And, I believe that when pushed, Americans would agree with something G.K. Chesterton once put so eloquently: “To have a right to do a thing, is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”