The XX Factor

Becoming Pro-Life

I’ve been mulling the responses I got, via e-mail and comments , to my question about why a recent Gallup poll might show a seven-point jump in the percentage of people who define themselves as pro-life (from 44 percent last year to 51 percent this year). Several theories from readers:

The Election

I think this past year forced me to think about how I really felt. The election has something to do with it … Obama’s mother also set me on a course of reflection. As an intelligent, curious single mom who struggled to give her son the best, I could relate.

I really want to be liberal, but in my life the most tangible support as a poor, single mother came from people who looked, acted, and talked just like Sarah Palin. Other high-status women didn’t give me chances; they were the first to complain when I needed time off for a sick child. Academics can write about women’s issues but the evangelicals made sure I could afford to go to work. In contrast, my university still doesn’t offer onsite child-care.

The Aging Population

Perhaps when folks pass the age at which their daughters may be faced with this decision, they can more easily be moved to a tenuous pro-life position when asked by a pollster. I suspect that the opinions on this subject may be broad, but very, very shallow.

Having a Baby

When I went with a friend who had a scan at eight weeks and could see the baby and hear his heartbeat-technology that wasn’t available to those of us who have been pro-choice since the ‘70s-then it all changed.

Scientific Advances

From Commenter LadyP: after having fertility issues and finally having children, I have changed my views in terms of late-term abortions. I think that science and the amount we know about fetal development has altered my viewpoint.

Changing Definitions

My impression from the occasional college paper I receive on this topic is that at least some young women are calling themselves pro-life and supporting that label with pro-choice positions. Basically, they argue that they’re pro-life in a sort of nuanced way that is indistinguishable from being pro-choice. They don’t actually want abortion to be illegal, they just don’t want it to be taken lightly.

Taking a look at the Gallup poll, that’s actually what it shows. Fifty-one percent call themselves “pro-life” but 78 percent want abortion to be legal in some circumstances. The whole debate is about those circumstances, but Gallup doesn’t ask about that. It’s like asking who’s in favor of “thou shalt not kill” without asking about the death penalty, war, hunting, or abortion.