By Dave Andrusko
On Wednesday we posted our take on Gallup’s fascinating new poll which showed the lowest percentage ever of those who self-identified as “pro-choice.”
That pitifully low 41% could not be brushed aside, so the question before the anti-life house was how pro-abortionists would attempt to explain the results away. If you are looking for new ideas, don’t.
Andrew Rosenthal is the editorial page editor for the New York Times. I don’t read his blog regularly enough to know how rigorously he argues on other issues. But when it comes to abortion, his remarks are a mishmash of misrepresentation, lack of basic information, and a kind of tone-deaf “realism.”
So, what did he have to say about Gallup’s finding that 50% of the public identifies itself as pro-life (just one point off of the all-time high) as compared to 41% pro-choice (one point below the previous all-time low)? The usual yammering but the bottom line is
“If the pro-life movement really is gaining ground, that’s not wholly surprising. Anti-abortion advocates have managed to frame the debate in strictly moral terms, basically life versus lifestyle, which can make opposing arguments sound hollow and legalistic.”
(Of course, it is VERY unlikely Rosenthal has ever previously acknowledged pro-life progress—and therefore he should be surprised–but put that aside.)
This is the usual formation—moralistic pro-lifers can win by “framing” the issue as life versus lifestyle. His solution to getting around the “hollow and pessimistic” tone of the typical “pro-choice” response?
You’ll never guess, actually, you will: invoke images of “backstreet abortions” which younger women never knew about.
How original. But he has one other suggestion.
Like others pro-abortionists who tried to find a silver lining in Gallup’s results, Rosenthal takes refuge in the fact that there was little change in the circumstances under which people say they believed abortion should be legal, especially the “middle position” of 52% who say abortion should be legal under “certain circumstances.”
Rosenthal looks at the truth that 51% believe abortion is “morally wrong” versus 38% who say it’s “morally acceptable “and comes to the not-illogical conclusion that some who find abortion morally wrong say they will accept abortion. He calls them the “immoral-but-legal community.” Put more of your energies there, Rosenthal advises, rather than “advancing the privacy rights argument.”
The problem for Rosenthal is that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know: that when asked a follow up question we find that those who said abortion should be legal under “certain circumstances” are much closer to the pro-life than pro-abortion position.
How do I know? Gallup asked them: “Do you think abortion should be legal in most circumstances or only in a few circumstances?” By a three to one margin (39% to 13%), they chose “few circumstances” over “most circumstances.”
With this clarification, a total of 59% of respondents said abortion should be legal in only a few circumstances (39%) or illegal in all circumstances (20%). That compares with a total of 38% who said that abortion should be legal under any circumstances (25%), or under most circumstances (13%).
Put another way, pro-lifers have a much larger pool of people from whom we could potentially bring new members into our ranks than do pro-abortionists. The famed (and wholly illusory) “pro-choice majority” has never existed, doesn’t exist, and never will exist.
More and more people not only self-identify as pro-life but vote pro-life because they realize they are where we are.
And that is very good news that not even the spinmeisters at the editorial page of the New York Times can bury.
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