Wednesday, June 2, 2010

American Opinion on Abortion

William McGurn has written an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the recent Gallup polls showing that American opinion on abortion has shifted toward the pro-life side. The main thesis of the article is that the main stream media isn't fairly representing American opinion on abortion:
Overall, Gallup's findings about Americans and abortion reflect less a political prescription than a sensibility. Apart from talk radio or the religious media, however, it's a sensibility almost entirely lacking in our news and entertainment world. So the next time you watch the pro-life community dismissed as a fringe element, ask yourself: Who's really out of touch with the American people here?
Couldn't have said it any better myself.

One key point that McGurn touches on toward the end of his article:
If there is one extraordinary fact here, it is this: Notwithstanding a pro-choice orthodoxy that dominates our film, our television, our press and our colleges and universities, strong moral qualms about abortion have not gone away. It's not as though we can't change our minds. The same Gallup survey which reported that Americans regard abortion as morally wrong showed that an even larger majority regard homosexual relations as morally acceptable.
I would say the mainstream media is stuck in this traditional narrative which pits evangelicals and conservative Catholics against mainstream America on the abortion issue. But this doesn't jive with the fact that Americans have actually increased in pro-life sentiment, while at the same time mostly rejected the traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality.

The fundamental reason this traditional narrative is wrong is this: It characterizes the pro-life position as a matter of personal conviction, which can only be held either due to indoctrination or through some conversion experience. Such convictions are not allowed into mainstream politics. We can't allow the religious zealots to make our laws.

Fortunately, this mischaracterization of the pro-life position has not ultimately swayed the American people. The pro-life position is a rational one, which can be arrived at through logic and/or common experience, and as such it is making advances in public discourse. I suspect it is the experiential factor that draws people in more than anything else. Anyone who has seen what abortion actually looks like has to deal with the issue seriously. Also, the pain caused by abortion is not to be taken lightly. Nevertheless, I do think logic is a vital part of maintaining any movement; if you don't have convincing arguments, people eventually turn away.

(This, I have to say, is probably why American views on homosexuality are growing more liberal. Conservative Christians have simply failed to state a logical case against homosexuality that appeals to common experience. Not so with the pro-life movement.)

The fog hasn't quite lifted on the subject of abortion. There are still many who make the same old arguments in favor of abortion, that it's simply a matter of personal choice, that no one has the right to tell a woman what to do with her own body. It is amazing these arguments pass in an era when an ultrasound can detect a child's heartbeat six weeks into pregnancy. This is a testament to the hard work of abortion activists in the past several decades. There's still much work to be done if we are to dislodge their rhetoric from the subconsciousness of the American mind.

Obviously the pro-life movement has been doing something right, given the recent polls. Where, then, do we go from here? I would say, keep stressing the parts of our argument that are most public in nature: the logic, the common experience, and, perhaps most importantly, the compassion that pro-lifers show when they go out of their way to help women in need through pregnancy centers. Appealing to religious faith might help energize activists, but it will also keep alive the mainstream media's unfair narrative of pro-life extremism.

Also, even the religious will not continue to hold a certain point of view simply because of religion; without sound logic and common sense reasons for the pro-life position, the movement can't last very long. The fact that it has lasted this long, and is in fact growing, is a great encouragement to those of us who have invested so heavily in it.

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