Friday, May 25 , 2018, 11:53 pm | Fair 62º

 
 
 
 

Mark Shields: Are Americans Both Pro-Choice and Pro-Life on Abortion?

The answer to one question in the most recent Wall Street Journal-NBC News national poll startled an awful lot of my friends and colleagues in the press corps who are pro-choice.

Because it is written and conducted by two respected pollsters, Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff, the Journal-NBC survey is trusted for both its professionalism and its fairness. So when, by a 44 percent to 37 percent margin, a plurality of Americans — including a plurality of college-educated women (by 44 percent to 40 percent) — answered that they do support efforts to ban abortions more than 20 weeks after fertilization, shock waves were felt in many pro-choice precincts.

But wait. Earlier this year, the same poll asked this question: "The Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision established a woman's constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Would you like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn its Roe v. Wade decision or not?" By a landslide 70 percent to 24 percent, Americans opposed overturning Roe v. Wade.

How to reconcile these apparently contradictory positions? My suggestion: On the thorny, divisive issue of abortion, Americans are simultaneously pro-choice and anti-abortion.

In short, most of us are unwilling to criminalize the painful, solitary decision a woman — presumably after consultation with her physician, her conscience and her confessor — makes to end the unborn human being she is carrying. (At no time during the nine months of the overly publicized pregnancy of Kate Middleton did anyone in print refer to the baby, now named George, as the royal fetus.) And let it be understood that nobody has ever won an election anywhere in this country running on the platform that what our nation needs is more abortions.

Nowhere is our ambivalence more clearly seen than when the Gallup Poll, for 40 years, has asked,

"With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?" This year, 48 percent self-identified as "pro-life," and 45 percent called themselves "pro-choice."

This represents a change from 1995, when 56 percent of those interviewed said they were "pro-choice" and only 33 percent answered "pro-life."

Between then and now, the miracles of medical science and technology have changed hearts and minds on the abortion issue. For example, last year when doctors spotted a potentially fatal tumor the size of a tennis ball growing on the face of Tammy Gonzales' 17-week-old unborn baby, Ruben Quintero and Eftichia Kontopoulos became the first surgeons to successfully remove in utero a tumor from the face of an unborn baby. Lynda, weighing just over 8 pounds, was born normal and healthy.

Stories like this may explain why, in that latest WSJ-NBC poll, even though 62 percent of college-educated women believe that abortion should be legal, a plurality of that same group still backed the proposed ban on abortion 20 weeks following fertilization.

Still, the misperception of a big pro-choice majority in the country persists. Nowhere was this more evident than when Gallup last May asked, "Do you think most Americans are pro-choice or pro-life?" By a thumping 51 percent to 35 percent, Americans think their fellow citizens are "pro-choice" rather than "pro-life." Pro-choice voters thought, by 57 percent to 29 percent, that Americans were pro-choice. So, too, did Democrats, by a 56 percent to 32 percent margin. Even pro-life respondents believed by 46 percent to 44 percent that the U.S. was pro-choice, despite the fact that the same survey found Americans by a 48 percent to 45 percent margin named themselves pro-life.

Attitudes on abortion are full of contradictions.

We remain ambivalent, somehow pro-choice and anti-abortion.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >