Earlier today, Gallup released it’s latest “Pro-Life/Pro-Choice” poll. For the first time since Gallup debuted the poll in 1995, a majority of respondents labeled themselves “Pro-Life.”
Advocates on both sides of the issue will debate the merits of this poll, but the graph above seems to confirm one thing—when abortion becomes an issue of national political interest, opinions tilt “Pro-Life.”
For example, look at the two most significant shifts to the “Pro-Life” stance. They occur between 1995 and 1998, and again between 2008 and 2009. In the first instance, abortion became a national issue when Congress passed two separate laws banning partial-birth abortion (in 1995 and 1997), both of which were vetoed by President Clinton. As you will remember, the debate was fierce, but in the end few could deny the barbarity of the procedure. In the second instance, last year’s presidential campaign again brought abortion into the national spotlight, and this exposure has continued since Inauguration Day as significant shifts have taken place in executive policy regarding abortion. Currently, national attention is focused on the use of public funds for the procedure, as well as on the uncertain future of conscience protections now enjoyed by medical professionals who object to abortion. In both cases, prolonged national attention seems to have caused measurable shifts in the public’s attitudes toward abortion.
Also worth noting is the first time to two lines of the graph intersect. In the middle of 2001, the poll registered an equal number of respondents on each side of the issue. At the time, the nation was engaged in a prolonged debate over the use of embryonic stem cells in medical experimentation, and whether public funds should be used for such research. Again, it seems that when the dignity of human life becomes a national issue, significant though not overwhelming shifts take place in public opinion toward the defense of life.
Of course, a poll is just a poll. But trends are read by both sides to help determine future action. And in this regard, the Pro-Life cause has reason to hope and to continue its important witness.