A closer look at Pew Research’s latest “Key facts about the abortion debate in America”

By Dave Andrusko

On Thursday Pew Research  produced its latest update on what Carrie Blazina, Michael Lipka, and John Gramlich call “Key facts about the abortion debate in America.” The “hook,” not surprisingly is “Several states have introduced or passed new restrictions on abortion in 2021 with an eye toward giving the Supreme Court a chance to overturn its decision in Roe, and the high court agreed in May to review a Mississippi law that aims to make most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy illegal.” 

From our perspective, the most interesting revelation is that of the first five “facts,” three have updated data and two go back to 2019 numbers.

What about #6?

In a December 2017 survey, roughly half of Americans (48%) said having an abortion is morally wrong, while 20% said it is morally acceptable and 31% said it is not a moral issue. 

That has not been updated. Wonder why?

But note that almost exactly 2 ½ times as many people say having an abortion is morally wrong (48%) as morally acceptable (20%). So, in the abstract (is abortion morally wrong  or morally acceptable?), Gallup may find almost equal numbers on either side but when you can get concrete—whether having an abortion is morally wrong or morally acceptable, as Pew poses the question—the results are fundamentally, dramatically different.

The remainder of Pew’s update is the usual usual. Here are two items of particular interest.

#1. “Around six-in-ten U.S. adults (59%) say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 39% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.” We’ve discussed this many times. When you ask finer grained questions (as Gallup does), you quickly find there is majority support for severely limiting abortion. In Gallup’s latest poll,  52% of respondents said abortion should be legal “only in a few circumstances” (33% ) or “illegal in all circumstances” (19% ).

#2. “When it comes to the Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark abortion ruling, seven-in-ten Americans said in the [Pew] Center’s 2019 survey that they would not like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn its Roe v. Wade decision.” This is an almost comically loaded and one-sided presentation.

*“Completely overturned,” I suspect, is heard by most respondents as meaning all abortions would be “illegal.” In fact, if the High Court were to re-think  Roe and Doe in a serious manner, abortion jurisprudence would return to the 50 states. That is why pro-abortion Congressional Democrats are desperate to try to pre-empt state decision making with patently unconstitutional federal legislation.

In addition, “completely overturned” doesn’t ask, for example, whether the public supports a ban on abortions that take the lives of pain-capable unborn children; or agree abortion survivors should received the same medical treatment and other child born at the same gestational age would receive. There is support for both, but you rarely see questions asked that put the abortion industry on the defensive.

**Most important is what you could find in the “Topline” in 2019 (which I could not find this time around). In asking whether the respondent wants to overturn Roe, how is Roe described?

In 1973 the Roe versus Wade decision established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy.

I thought this misnomer, this bugaboo, had finally been jettisoned. As everyone knows who follows the abortion battle, Roe and Doe essentially legalized abortion on demand throughout pregnancy, which, by the way, is the position of the Democrat Party.