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Millennials and Abortion: What Say They?

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If I or another individual had made this assertion—that among the younger generation, the Millennials, there is a greater intensity among pro-lifers than among pro-choicers—not a single “mainstream” reporter would have given our assertion the time of day. However, since outgoing NARAL President Nancy Keenan first broached this in an interview with then-Newsweek reporter Sarah Kliff in 2010, it has been a topic of significant interest. For further information, please refer to our coverage.

In an interview with Salon’s Irin Carmon, published today, Keenan returned to that topic as well as others worthy of comment (see www.salon.com/2013/01/03/do_millennials_care_about_abortion).

  1. The 2012 elections saw a significant victory for the pro-life movement, in part due to the extremist views of some candidates. NARAL and other pro-choice groups exploited the unfortunate and politically disastrous comments made by those who oppose abortion, as described by NRLC Executive Director David N. O’Steen, Ph.D. Consequently, pro-abortionists were able to redefine the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” in the public arena, and to amplify their message through the use of vast resources and a media eager to carry their message. Once Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin made his comments on rape and abortion, the media began to focus exclusively on the issue of rape in relation to abortion. This not only placed pro-life candidates in a defensive position but also ensured that the genuine abortion extremist—President Barack Obama—would never be held to account for his record.
  2. Another attempt will be made to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which has saved at least one million babies since its initial enactment.
  3. It is unlawful for pro-life advocates, the Catholic Church, business owners with religious convictions, and faith-based institutions to challenge the mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Obama administration. The HHS mandate is a set of regulations enacted by the HHS under a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that compels employers to provide health insurance coverage for their employees that includes contraceptive services and other items or procedures that they oppose on moral or religious grounds. (There are currently over 40 legal challenges to the mandate.) According to Keenan, it is impossible to simultaneously oppose abortion and recognize anyone’s freedom of conscience.
  4. The Democratic Party is identified with the practice of abortion, which it supports and for which it has a particular affinity. This is evidenced by the party’s embrace of figures such as Keenan and Cecile Richards, president of PPFA, and the wider Abortion Establishment. (Those who remain unconvinced may wish to reflect on the Democratic National Convention held last summer.) With regard to President Obama, it is clear that he has consistently espoused pro-choice values since his days as a state legislator in Illinois. He has demonstrated unwavering commitment to this position throughout his political career.
  5. There is much more to be discussed, but for the sake of returning to what Carmon referred to as Keenan’s “controversial comments in Newsweek about millennials being less pro-choice,” it is important to note that Keenan did not retract her statements, although she did clarify that she was not referring to the young women who have dedicated their lives and enormous energy to this movement, men and women. She was referring to that group of millennials under the age of 30 who have not connected the personal to the political on this issue. Her criticism was that they are pro-choice, but they do not prioritize the issue of protecting this decision. This creates an intensity gap. If one were to observe five pro-choice millennials in a room, it is probable that one of them would prioritize their pro-choice values as a critical factor in their decision-making process. However, if one were to observe five anti-choice millennials in a room, it is likely that almost two of them would prioritize their anti-choice values. By 2020, millennials will constitute approximately 40% of the voting population in this country.

NARAL and Keenan have recently asserted that the generation under 30 is “pro-choice.” However, if this is indeed the case, the challenge is to persuade a larger proportion of the population to view abortion as a critical issue.

In reality, the younger generation is, in fact, intuitively pro-life and becoming increasingly so. It is important to remember that in every generation, only a small percentage of individuals will prioritize a candidate’s stance on abortion when casting their vote.

This presents a further challenge for those who support abortion rights. The proportion of Millennials who are aware of their values and are willing to act on them is already twice as high as among their counterparts who support abortion rights. With a significant number of people who are open to considering the issue, there is a potential for a significant increase in the number of champions for life in the future.

[For further reading, see also “MSNBC’s Alex Witt Asks: ‘What’s It Going To Take To Get Abortion Rights Back On Track?’”]


Chelsea Garcia is a political writer with a special interest in international relations and social issues. Events surrounding the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are a major focus for political journalists. But as a former local reporter, she is also interested in national politics.

Chelsea Garcia studied media, communication and political science in Texas, USA, and learned the journalistic trade during an internship at a daily newspaper. In addition to her political writing, she is pursuing a master's degree in multimedia and writing at Texas.

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