Shift to Pro-Life: The “New Normal”
By Deirdre A. McQuade
May 28, 2010
Last May I wrote how America is trending decidedly pro-life -- despite assertions to the contrary from abortion advocacy groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America, formerly known as the National Abortion Rights Action League. On May 14 of this year, Gallup announced the results of its annual poll on abortion with a striking headline: “The New Normal on Abortion: Americans More ‘Pro-Life’.” According to the survey, more Americans call themselves “pro-life” (47%) than consider themselves “pro-choice” (45%). Gallup explains its headline: “While the two-percentage-point gap is not significant, it represents the third consecutive time Gallup has found more Americans taking the pro-life than pro-choice position on this measure since May 2009, suggesting a real change in public opinion.” Hence, pro-life is “the new normal.”
Gallup’s demographic analysis shows that the trend remarkably holds true across all age and gender groups. Building on last year’s trend, both men and women are more likely to identify as pro-life, with a more noticeable change among women since 2008. While all age groups have become more pro-life, pro-life young adults (18-29) and those aged 50-64 have shown more significant shifts. Pro-life respondents jumped from 42% of young adults in 2007-2008 to 47% in 2009-2010, surpassing pro-choice respondents (now at only 45%). A separate analysis released by Gallup on March 12 also shows that support for making abortion generally illegal is growing fastest among young adults.
When you dig beneath the labels people identify with, it is even more evident that America has become pro-life. The same survey shows that half (50%) of those surveyed say abortion is “morally wrong,” but that doesn’t mean the other half find it acceptable. Only 38% say that it is “morally acceptable,” while the remaining 12% provide no answer or say they don’t know.
Even more significantly, when you ask about abortion’s legality, a total of 73% think that abortion should be either illegal under all circumstances (19%) or legal only under certain circumstances (54%). Only 24% think abortion should be legal under any circumstance. Thus fewer than one in four agree with the current status of abortion law under Roe v. Wade, which allows abortion virtually on demand – in every state and territory – throughout the nine months of pregnancy.
These trends are encouraging, and give lie to the accusation that the pro-life position is “fringe” or even extreme. But the figures remain sobering. Clearly we have a long way to go in helping Americans understand that abortion is wrong because it is a direct attack against innocent, defenseless children in the womb. It is never an answer to the challenges women and their families face. We also have a long way to go in helping our families, parishioners, classmates, and neighbors embrace alternatives to abortion – and to seek forgiveness and receive the abundant mercy of God when abortion has been chosen.
It is time to be boldly and lovingly pro-life – not just because our numbers are strong, but because life is always the right choice for babies, their families, and our world.
Deirdre A. McQuade is Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on the bishops’ pro-life activities, please visit www.usccb.org/prolife.