Liberals and the media always want to believe the abortion issue works for Democrats. In particular, they like to think that their are hordes of women who are so outraged by the Republicans' pro-life position on abortion that they're voting for Democrats as a result. As I pointed out the polling shows that women are every bit as pro-life as men and that women vote for Democrats at a higher percentage because they are much more liberal on fiscal issues. I further argued on Civil Discourse Now that the issue had been a loser at the polls for the pro-choice crowd, in particular Democrats, and that the only way they've been able to win on the issue is when they have been able to focus on the well-known exceptions such as rape, incest, threat to the life of the mother. I also pointed out that polling suggested that people today are more pro-life than ever before.
Needless to say that my conclusions were not accepted by the more liberal members of the panel, including co-host Mark Small.
One can imagine my surprise when I picked up a Time Magazine yesterday and found a supporter of abortion rights had written a cover story that supports what I was saying about the political impact of the abortion issue. Here are some snippets of the story titled "40 Years Ago, Abortion-rights Activists Won an Epic Victory with Roe v. Wade...They've Been Losing Ever Since":
... But while the right to have an abortion is federal law, exactly who can access the service and under what circumstances is the purview of states. And at the state level, abortion-rights activists are unequivocally losing.
Part of the reason is that the public is siding more and more with their opponents. Even though three-quarters of Americans believe Americans believe abortion should be legal under some or all circumstances, just 41% identified themselves as pro-choice in a Gallup survey conducted in Mayo 2012. In this age of prenatal ultrasounds and sophisticated neonatology, a sizable majority of Americans supports abortion restrictions like waiting periods and parental-consent laws. Pro-life activists write the legislation to set these rules. Their pro-choice counterparts, meanwhile, have opted to stick with their longtime core message that government should not interfere at all with women's health care decision, a stance that seems tone-deaf to current reality.
Pro-choice activists' failure to adapt to the shift in public attitudes on abortion has left their cause stranded in the past says Frances Kissling, a longtime abortion-rights advocate and former president of Catholics for Choice. Kissling is part of a small group within the pro-choice movement trying to push the cause toward more nuanced stances. "The established pro-choice position - which essentially is" abortion should be legal, a private matter between a woman and her doctor, with no restriction or regulation beyond what is absolutely necessary to protect the woman's health - makes 50% of the population extremely uncomfortable and unwilling to associate with us.," she says.
The abortion war, like many other political fights, is largely waged on the margins of reality. Review the policies that have stoked widespread national debate, and it's easy to assume that late-term (otherwise known as partial-birth) abortions and those performed on underage girls or women impregnated by rape or incest constitute the bulk of terminated pregnancies. In truth, these are mere slivers of the abortion story in American. And on the whole, there is little public disagreement on the merits of abortion in such cases. Most Americans support access to abortion in cases of rape or incest or when the mother's life is threatened, along with a raft of common state abortion restrictions. Gallup data shows that 79% of pro-choice Americans believe abortion should be illegal in the third trimester and that 60% support 24-hour waiting periods and parental consent for minors.
The antiabortion cause has been aided by scientific advances that have complicated American attitudes about abortion. Prenatal ultrasound, which has allowed the general public to see fetuses inside the womb and understand that they have a human shape beginning about eight weeks into pregnancy, became widespread in the 1980s, and some babies born as early as 24 weeks can now survive...."In general, the pro-choice movement leaves people with the feeling that we don't see these things as complex because the answer is almost always, We'll it's a woman's decision," says Kissling, formerly of Catholics for Choice."...
Kissling opposes the specific state laws pushed by pro-life activists but says the pro-choice movement's effort to "normalize abortion" is counterproductive. "When people hear us say abortion is just another medical procedure, they react with shock," she says. "Abortion is not like having your tooth pulled or having your appendix out. It involves the termination of an early form of human life. That deserves some gravitas."
The article is quite lengthy, but worth a read. While the writer Kate Pickert obviously supports abortion rights, it is apparent that she understands it is a lot more complicated of an issue than the pro-choice advocates suggest that it is.
Indeed the abortion issue is complicated on both sides. I think pro-lifers have to acknowledge that a woman's autonomy is a vitally important interest and most I believe do. But on the pro-choice side, I think advocates need to stop denying the undeniable science fueling the increased support for the pro-life side. Clearly abortion involves the termination of a human life. Science has established that beyond dispute.
It is unfortunate that Roe v. Wade handed down nearly 40 years ago short-circuited the political debate over the issue of the legality of abortion. As ugly as our political process sometimes appears to be, it is how we resolve political disputes in this country and, in the end, it works very well. The fact that Roe v. Wade was at the very least ill-timed in cutting off the political debate on the legality of abortion is a position taken by one of the most liberal justices on the United State Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a President Clinton appointee.
I would urge people on both sides of the abortion issue to go out and buy a copy of the magazine in order to read this excellent article. It appears that, even though it is dated January 14, 2013, there have been two newer issues come out so it might be hard to find. It is available on-line at the Time website if you buy a subscription.