Because 1998 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion in the United States throughout the entire pregnancy, a number of new polls were taken of the opinions of the American people on this subject.
The news is good for the pro-life effort.
For example, a New York Times/CBS poll conducted in January of this year showed that since 1989, those who support generally available legal abortion have slipped from 40 to 32 percent. Those who say it should not be permitted have risen from 18 to 22 percent.
Half the population, according to the poll, considers abortion murder. While the national divide between "pro-life" and "pro-choice" remains, there is nevertheless a movement of opinion that abortion should not be so easy to obtain. Almost half of those polled said it is too easy to get an abortion these days. The poll also showed nearly 80 percent of respondents favoring both parental consent and waiting periods. This strong public sentiment has been reflected in the legislative activity at the state level in the past year, which has far surpassed previous years in the number of pro-life initiatives both introduced and passed.
Some of the reasons given for abortion are losing their strength with the public. The NY Times/CBS poll showed that the number of people who think a pregnant woman should be able to get a legal abortion if her pregnancy would force her to interrupt her career has dropped from 37 percent to 25 percent. Those who think interruption of education would justify abortion likewise dropped from 48 to 42 percent.
Another poll conducted at the same time by Wirthlin Worldwide, showed that 70 percent of Americans believe that legal abortion is not necessary for women to pursue various educational and career goals, and that most adults (53 percent) believe that abortion has hindered the relationships between women and men.
Now we know that truth is not determined by polls, and that polls do not constitute the focal point of our attention and efforts. Yet they do reveal that the myth of abortion is beginning to subside. It has to; no lie can live forever.
Polls can also indicate to us strategic clues. It is important, for example, that we put a great deal of emphasis on how easy it is to obtain an abortion in the United States, and how late in the pregnancy they are performed. These facts will often catch the attention of people who would not necessarily agree that all abortion should be outlawed. Educationally and psychologically, we begin with what people are most concerned about; we start with what will cause them to actively think about the issue and ask questions like, "Why is it so easily obtained?" and "If the reasons given for abortion are not valid, which reasons are, and why?"
The moral principles at issue in abortion are absolute, but most people arrive at them gradually. According to the polls, they're on their way.