Roe v. Wade at 40

NBC News and the Wall Street Journal marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade with a poll that shows “a majority of Americans – for the first time – believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.”

To be more specific, “54 percent of adults say that abortion should be legal either always or most of the time, while a combined 44 percent said it should be illegal ??? either with or without exceptions.”  Furthermore, “seven in 10 respondents oppose Roe v. Wade being overturned, which is the highest percentage on this question since 1989.”

The pollsters describe this as a “profound change” in public opinion, which would be true, if this poll proves more accurate than a number of others over the past few years, which purported to show the populace moving more in the pro-life direction, including greater pro-life sentiment among young people.  As recently as May 2012, Gallup reported that pro-choice Americans were at a record low of just 41 percent, while 50 percent described themselves as pro-life.  Independent voters were said to have made a remarkable 16-point net swing in the pro-life direction in just a single year.

But now the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll says it has detected a comparably swift and massive swing toward pro-choice sentiment!  Of course, it’s possible one or the other poll is inaccurate.  (Some critics have pointed out the pollsters’ description of Roe as a decision that “established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy,” is misleading because it went considerably further than that.)  Or perhaps the respondents are doing a bit of hair-splitting, and some of them – particularly Democrats and independents – describe themselves as “pro-life” while believing there should be few legal restrictions upon abortion.

Pollster Bill McInturff suggested the “abortion-related events and rhetoric over the past year” might have contributed to a shift in popular opinion, including “controversial remarks on abortion and rape by two Republican Senate candidates, as well as a highly-charged debate over contraception.”  None of those factors seems powerful enough to explain such a profound change in opinion.  Names like “Todd Akin” and “Sandra Fluke” are already well on their way to becoming the answers to trivia questions.  If the new poll is detecting the residue of high-powered flood-the-zone “War on Women” media coverage, the results will likely prove to be ephemeral.

Frankly, anyone likely to change their opinion based on such superficial factors probably isn’t really “pro-life” or “pro-choice” in any meaningful sense; they really don’t care much at all, and they’re giving pollsters the answer they believe society and pop culture expect.  Forty years on, Roe v. Wade has been so engraved in the public-policy landscape that people who don’t really know what it says, much less how it was decided, are going to reflexively oppose overturning it.  The level of media and pop-culture power that would be employed in its defense would be staggering.  Those with less than a passionate commitment to the pro-life cause are not eager to ride into those guns.

If there’s truly some tectonic shift in public opinion under way, perhaps among younger voters – who previous polls depicted as becoming somewhat more pro-life in recent years – it may be part of the general sense of enervation overtaking the American public on contentious social issues.  The media/political alliance has made its feelings on the subject clear; everyone knows the default answer to “Do you support a woman’s right to choose?” is “Yes.”  Unpacking the question any more thoroughly takes hard work and soul-searching.  The diminished role of fatherhood leads men to feel they don’t have much to say about the termination of a pregnancy… and quite a few of them like it that way.

Pro-life women have an uphill battle against the idea that pro-choice is the nearly universal default female position.  It doesn’t help that the dissolution of marriage results in a large cohort of single people who view the prospect of an unplanned pregnancy as “punishment” for a “mistake,” the way Barack Obama famously described it.

And the great social movement of the past few years has been treating all undesirable consequences as “punishment,” which the government must “rescue” us from.  Public funding surges into the abortion industry in a tidal wave, with the occasional, humorously insincere protest that safeguards for certain levels of individual conscience will be implemented.  That’s like trying to hold a tidal wave back with a sieve.  Half a billion dollars of public money flows into Planned Parenthood every year.  Those who object are told they must hate women and want them to die.  Aggressively folding abortion into the larger topic of “women’s health” makes it even harder for anyone to be “moderately pro-life.”  You’re either all-in, or you’re content with raising mild verbal objections to an unstoppable juggernaut as it rumbles past.

Tireless pro-life crusader Lila Rose of Live Action observed the 40th anniversary of Roe by laying out the stakes:

“In marking the 40th anniversary of Roe vs Wade, today we mourn the lost generation, the 55 million human beings who were never given the chance to live and do great things.  Just one day after America celebrated civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and his leadership in the fight for civil rights, today we remember the 55 million human beings who had the most basic right and freedom tragically stolen from them through abortion, the first right of all — the right to life.  Without the right to life, there are no other rights.

“Today, we mourn over 55,000,000 children lost to the great violence of abortion. Words cannot express the immensity of this loss. But countless mothers and fathers remember it, and many others grieve missing sisters, brothers, grandchildren, cousins. Today we pray for every person wounded by abortion, and for those caught in an industry of killing and deceit. Today we pray for every mother and father, for our young people, and for families. Today we pray for every unborn child, that they will be protected by the people closest to them, and given a chance at life. And today we resolve again, to work tirelessly, courageously, to never give up, until we restore our nation to the protection of every life, especially the smallest.”

Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ) evidently isn’t buying that NBC/Wall Street Journal poll:

???Forty years, and nearly fifty million lives later, we honor every single one of our children not here with us today.

???I am one of the children here today because, decades ago, a young woman summoned the courage to choose life. I will honor her decision by always choosing life and fighting for the unborn.

???This is not only a day for sorrow and reflection, but also one for hope because Life is winning in America.???

Texas governor Rick Perry viewed this as one of many battles he’s prepared to keep fighting at the state level:

“Roe v. Wade paved the way for the loss of more than 54 million innocent lives, with more than a million added to that total with each passing year. This catastrophic loss of life is a grim testament to judicial activism, and a tragic stain on our national conscience. In Texas, we’ve worked hard to strengthen our abortion laws to the greatest extent possible under Roe v. Wade. We will continue working to empower families and protect our children’s future, until the day abortion is nothing more than a tragic footnote in our nations history.”

Perry’s fellow Texan, Senator Ted Cruz, tried to count the cost that no mere mortal will ever truly be able to calculate:

“Defending life, at its core, includes protecting both the unborn child and his or her mother from an irreversible injustice.

“We cannot know how many inventors, musicians, scientists, athletes, physicians, and entrepreneurs were never allowed to breathe their first breath of life. We cannot know the medical cures, artistic masterpieces, thriving businesses, and life-transforming charities that never came into existence. Today we mourn those 55 million souls.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) noted that judicial activism saved the pro-abortion movement from the trouble of winning American hearts and minds:

???Today marks the tragic anniversary of one of America???s most blatant instances of judicial activism that paved the way for the destruction of innocent unborn life. Since this decision, tens of millions of our nation???s unborn babies have been denied the chance to celebrate a birthday, begin kindergarten or go on to contribute their God-given talents to our world.

???As a U.S. senator, I am privileged to serve in a position that allows me to fight for the lives of the unborn. I will continue to fulfill my duty to fight to reduce the number of abortions. As with many of our nation???s most important debates, the battlefield of this issue is in the hearts and minds of the American electorate, and I pray that we can one day live in a society that fully cherishes every life from conception until death.???

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), co-sponsor of the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, challenged President Obama to live up to his rhetoric:

???More than 55 million innocent children have been killed since Roe v. Wade, the worst Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott. If President Obama really believes his admonition that ???a great nation must care for the vulnerable,??? he will stop this senseless slaughter of innocents.  Anything less is a war on our nation???s children. As a member of the pro-life majority in the House of Representatives, I will continue to work to reverse Roe and defund Big Abortion.???

Pro-lifers obviously believe they’re doing the right thing, as do committed abortion advocates.  The big difference is that few pro-lifers believe they’re taking the easy road.  They’re trying to persuade an electorate that has generally lost its stomach for difficult battles, especially when there is no immediate personal reward.  But if we aren’t willing to give of ourselves, take a chance on life, and cling to one another tightly enough to form families, what future do we have?

Update: Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) salutes the March for Life:

???It is an honor to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the tens of thousands of pro-life patriots visiting our nation???s capital this week to make their voices heard in the annual ???March for Life.??? They are doing the very important work of informing their fellow citizens and lawmakers about the sanctity of life and our high calling to defend it.

???Every human life is precious in the eyes of God and should be protected under the rule of law. As lawmakers, we must strive to protect it, especially the most innocent among us. This begins by passing legislation to prohibit federal funding for abortions.???