While the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are clearly open for interpretation, I’ve had the impression that, generally, “pro-life” people think abortion should be illegal except in cases that threaten the mother’s life (and perhaps in cases of rape*) and “pro-choice” people generally think abortion should be legal throughout pregnancy. My impressions are due partially to my countless conversations with passionate pro-choicers (who, yes, are sometimes pro-abortion) and due partially to the heated public debates that ensue with nearly every attempt at abortion restriction.
The combination of Roe v. Wade and Doe v.
Bolton effectively made abortion legal at any stage in pregnancy. Most attempts to limit this liberal standard are met with strong resistance. I’m not just talking about sweeping changes, like declaring personhood begins at conception. Even more mild restrictions, such as parental notification requirements, are greatly contested.
It seems to me there are two possible reasons for this defense of some of the most permissive abortion standards in the world:
1) The pro-choice movement genuinely believes abortion should be legal at any time for any reason.
2) A fair amount of pro-choicers don’t realize exactly what standard they’re defending.
poll suggests the latter. While 46% of respondents described themselves as “pro-choice,” only 38% said abortion should be legal in “any” or “most” circumstances. Additionally, of self-described pro-choicers: Gallup
- 60% think minors should be required to get parental consent.
- 60% think women should be required to wait 24 hours before obtaining an abortion.
- 63% think partial-birth abortion should be illegal.
- 52% think abortion should be illegal in the 2nd trimester.
- 79% think abortion should be illegal in the 3rd trimester.
It’s also worth noting that only 90% of self-described pro-lifers think abortion should be illegal in the 2nd trimester. Even so, if:
- 90% of the 48% of Americans who describe themselves as “pro-life” (43.2%) and
- 52% of the 46% who describe themselves as “pro-choice” (23.92%)
believe abortion should be illegal by the 2nd trimester, then 68% of Americans think abortion should be illegal after the 1st trimester.
The majority of Americans don’t agree with our current abortion law. Why, then, has it been so difficult to unify and enact meaningful change?
*According to the same
poll, 59% of self-described pro-lifers believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape. Gallup