Feminists from the National Organization for Women and other feminist organizations claim that George W. Bush’s pro-life views are extremist. In fact whether you agree with Bush or NOW, Bush’s anti-abortion views are very mainstream. One of the biggest problems feminists are creating for themselves is exaggerating the level of support there is for abortion, and more specifically vastly overestimating the public support for the sort of restriction-free abortion that NOW and other groups advocate.
A poll conducted by the Gallup organization in October 2000 found 47 percent of Americans described themselves as “pro-choice” while 45 percent described themselves as “pro-life.” Although polling data on abortion varies widely over time, probably due to the controversial nature of the procedure, that is a marked change from 1995 and 1996 polls by Gallup that found 56 percent of those polled described themselves as “pro-choice” and only 33 percent described themselves as “pro-life.”
Still, every poll Gallup has conducted in the past 5 years has found a majority of people in the “pro-choice” column. Unfortunately for NOW and Planned Parenthood, what many Americans consider to be a “pro-choice” view is close to what those groups consider “pro-life.”
Although 46 percent of respondents said that abortion laws shouldn’t be made any stricter, when asked about specific procedures overwhelming majorities favored additional restrictions on abortions. Only 28 percent of those polled by Gallup said that abortion should be “legal under any circumstance.” Forty-nine percent said it should be legal only in “most circumstances”or “only in a few circumstances” while 19 percent said it should be “illegal in all circumstances.”
In what sort of circumstances shouldn’t abortion be legal? For one, most Americans oppose so-called “partial birth abortions.” When asked whether they would personally vote for a law to ban “partial birth abortion except in cases necessary to save the life of the mother,” 63 percent of those polled said they would vote for such a law. This level of support has remained relatively consistent over time, with 57 percent of respondents in a 1996 poll telling Gallup they would vote for such a law.
These sort of results indicate a public that is generally in favor of abortion, but on the other hand believes that strong regulation and restrictions on the procedure are also a good idea, especially when it comes to late term abortions.
Majority of Americans Say Roe v. Wade Decision Should Stand. Joseph Carroll, Gallup News Service, January 22, 2001.