My kids love to hear stories about when they were born. They know the quirky details—that Penny was easy to push out, that I threw up on the way to the hospital with William, that they celebrated Marilee’s birth in the hospital with cupcakes. They have a very faint idea that giving birth is precarious and difficult, but they know nothing of the sorrow of miscarriage or the feeling of crisis surrounding an unintended pregnancy. The word abortion has not entered their vocabulary, and I hope I can keep it that way for a while.
Abortion seems not to have made it into the vocabulary of our Presidential candidates either. Over one million fetuses are aborted every year in America, and nearly 1/3 of American women have had or will have an abortion. A recent Gallup poll indicates that a slim majority of Americans consider themselves pro-life, while 42 percent self-identify as pro-choice. I don’t talk about abortion with my kids, but the reality of abortion impacts the lives of women and children in America on a day-to-day basis.
Only 25 percent of respondents to that same Gallup poll stated that they think abortion should be legal in all circumstances, which implies that 75 percent of the nation opposes abortion in some cases. At the same time, since the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade nearly 40 years ago, it has become increasingly unlikely that the Court will overturn women’s legal access to abortion services. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts called Roe v. Wade established precedent. And even if the court were to overturn the ruling, many states would keep abortion legal.
So let’s assume for a moment that abortion is here to stay and that the vast majority of the American public believes it should be restricted in some sense. The same Gallup poll indicates that Republicans and Democrats have held steady on their views about abortion over the past decade. But independents have fluctuated, with 47 percent now identifying themselves as pro-life (vs. 30 percent in 2001) and 41percent as pro-choice (down from 56 percent in 2001). Obama or Romney could employ a practical approach to abortion reduction as a way to attract swing voters.