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Catholic Culture Podcasts

America's enduring pro-life majority

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 18, 2010

  • Does it surprise you that the overwhelming majority of Americans voice moral objections to abortion? 
  • Does it surprise you that women are more likely than men to express pro-life views?  
  • Does it surprise you that the American voters who think abortion is too easy to obtain outnumber those who think it's too difficult? By a whopping 3-1 margin?
  • Does it surprise you that among likely voters, those who hold pro-life views are twice as likely as pro-abortion voters to consider the issue critical? 

If you're surprised by any of those facts-- and they are facts-- you shouldn't be. 

You can find the latest poll results in this CWN headline story, or follow the link to the Rasmussen survey for more complete data. But before you do, please pause for a moment of reflection on this single sentence from the Rasmussen report on the question about whether abortion is too easy to obtain:

This is in line with findings on this question in surveys for over four years now.

Like any other honest pollster, Rasmussen has been coming up with the same results for years. If you were unaware of the facts  listed above, it's not because the data weren't available. It's because the American media-- whose bias in favor of unrestricted legal abortion has been demonstrated time and again-- choose not to present the data to the public.

Yes, it's true, as other surveys have shown, that most Americans label themselves "pro-choice." It's also true that most Americans label themselves "pro-life." How can that apparent contradiction be explained? Very easily. Most Americans are conflicted on the subject.

But when you start asking specific questions, rather than tossing around slogans and labels, American voters consistently say the same thing: They dislike abortion. They think there are too many abortions. They aren't ready to outlaw the procedure entirely, but they seem sympathetic toward restraints on abortion. 

So it would seem, then, that a political platform calling for restrictions on abortion would be more popular with voters than one calling for unrestricted, legal, taxpayer-funded abortion. Why is it, then, that the "pro-choice" side of the argument is so aggressive, while "pro-life" advocates are so often inclined to softpedal the issue?

There's more. The much- discussed "women's vote" is actually a vote in favor of the pro-life position! 

Still more: While "pro-choice" voters see abortion as one among many issues, more pro-lifers see it as the critical issue on which they'll base their votes. 

Add up all those factors, and it's quite clear that an articulate pro-life candidate, voicing support for some restrictions on abortion, should have a substantial advantage over a pro-abortion opponent in the average American voting district. 

So why, after all these years-- after all the similar poll results-- is there still a general perception that a pro-life stance is an impediment to success in an American political campaign? Credit the mass media for an astonishingly bold and thorough propaganda campaign, successfully suppressing the facts that pollsters so consistently find. 

But wait; that's not the whole story. Successful politicians, particularly at the national level, don't rely on the mass media to interpret public opinion. They conduct their own internal polls, and analyze the results for themselves. Why haven't they recognized the opportunities here? Why haven't they realized that an intelligent pro-life candidate can establish himself as the "moderate" on the issue, calling for reasonable restrictions on abortion, while his opponent will be rightly recognized as the "extremist" for supporting unrestricted abortion on demand? It's very hard to avoid the conclusion that many candidates who label themselves as "pro-life" haven't really thought about the issue, or thought about its political implications.

In which case, how pro-life could they really be?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Gregory108 - Aug. 21, 2010 7:28 PM ET USA

    Maybe I don't understand what you advance here as a resonable political position, but can a pro-lifer be "moderate," supporting "restrictions" while allowing abortion generally? That's not pro-life because abortion is murder! So either one opposes it COMPLETELY or supports it with/ without restrictions. And if one opposes it wholeheartedly, (s)he gets savaged and distorted by the powerful media. Many Democrats have found it tough to win as pro-life considering their party's makeup and support.