The Roe Effect, by the Numbers
Overbrook Research, an Illinois-based polling firm, has a fascinatingWell, Let's keep praying the rosary, and lets plead with our Lady to intercede for the Unborn and obtain for us and the world the grace of banning abortion, most especially since the Korean Courts have just ruled that an unborn child at 42 weeks gestation is NOT human,until labour, in order to clear the charges against a midwife charged with negligent homicide.
study out on public opinion and abortion. Authors Christopher Blunt and Fred
Steeper analyze opinon-poll data from the bellwether state of Missouri between
1992 and 2006, focusing on voters' answers to the question whether they regard
themselves as "pro-life" or "pro-choice."
The finding: Public opinion has moved strongly in the "pro-life" direction. In 1992, 34% of Missouri voters described themselves as "strongly pro-choice"; by 2006 this figure had declined to 23%. The proportion describing themselves as "strongly pro-life" rose from 26% to 36%. When those describing themselves as "somewhat" pro-whatever are included, the "pro-life" rise is 11 percentage points (30% to 41%), and the "pro-choice" decline is 13 points (43% to 30%).
These, of course, are measures of general sentiment, not specific policy preferences. "Pro-life" and "pro-choice" are imprecise, even tendentious, terms. Not everyone describing himself as "pro-life" wants to outlaw all abortions, and not everyone describing himself as "pro-choice" opposes all regulation on abortion. It's even conceivable that one could be both "pro-life" and "pro-choice" (if one believes
abortion is immoral but shouldn't be illegal).
Still, a willingness to describe oneself as "pro-life" or "pro-choice" suggests a genuine sympathy with the anti- or pro-abortion side of the debate, respectively, since this is how they prefer to describe themselves. So what does this shift mean?
Blunt and Steeper argue that the debate has shifted profoundly, in a way that benefits the "pro-life" side:
In the 1980s and early 1990s, there were dozens of attacks against abortion clinics and the physicians who perform abortions. According to one official government count, between 1977 and 1993, there were at least 36 bombings, 81 arsons, 131 death threats, 84 assaults, 327 clinic invasions, 71 chemical attacks, and over 6,000 blockades of clinic entrances. In response, in 1994, President Clinton signed into law the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. . . .
The law worked. Threatened by stiff new federal penalties, Operation Rescue and other vocal anti-abortion groups abruptly ceased their clinic blockades. Dramatic demonstrations and arrests gave way to peaceful prayer vigils and sidewalk counseling.
As antiabortion violence abated, the violence of abortion itself took a higher profile. In 1996 Congress approved the first federal bill to outlaw partial-birth abortion--in which the abortionist partially delivers a baby before taking its life--but opponents of the bill had enough votes to sustain President Clinton's veto. Partial-birth abortion remained at the center of the debate for more than a decade. This past April the Supreme Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.
But there may also be a demographic component to the shift. Blunt and Steeper note that the most dramatic shift has come among the youngest voters:
Some have speculated that there is a self-interest component to abortion attitudes, and that the young--particularly young women--ought to be more supportive of legal abortion than those whose childbearing years have passed. That seems to have been true in 1992: those under age 30 (both women and men) were the most strongly pro-choice (39%), and the least strongly pro-life (23%). . . .
While this might be evidence for the self-interest hypothesis, something interesting happened to the newest voters entering the electorate. Today's 18-29 year olds are as strongly pro-life (36%) as older voters, and are less strongly pro-choice (18%) than their elders.
The authors offer several hypotheses for this shift:
This youngest cohort's passage into adulthood coincided with the ascendance of partial-birth abortion as the issue's dominant frame; for them, the "abortion wars" of the 1980s and early 1990s were a dim memory at best. This is also the generation for whom fetal ultrasound images (often of a very high quality) have become ubiquitous, which has doubtlessly increased the sensitivity of many to the possible humanity of the unborn child. Furthermore, these voters have come of age with legal abortion, perhaps with the realization that they themselves could have been aborted had their parents "chosen" differently. . . . Particularly for those who may have reflected on the narrowness with which they themselves escaped abortion, the whole notion of self-interest seems to have been stood on its head.
What they don't mention is the demographic consequences of abortion itself--that is, the Roe Effect. It was in 1973 that the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, found a "constitutional" right to abortion, effectively legalizing the practice nationwide. By 1992 the oldest post-Roe babies were only 19. In 2006, by contrast, the entire 18- to 29-year-old cohort had been born after Roe.
If one makes the reasonable assumptions that "pro-life" women have a lower propensity to abort than "pro-choice" ones do, and that parents are a strong influence on their chlidren's moral attitudes, then one would expect the post-Roe cohort to be more "pro-life" than their elders.
As it happens, there has been a similar, though slightly less dramatic, shift, in the
attitudes of 30- to 49-year-olds. In 1992, 27% of women and 23% of men in this age group described themselves as "strongly pro-life"; in 2006, 38% and 34%, respectively. For "strongly pro-choice," the proportions declined from 38% to 26% of women and 34% to 21% of men.
The 30- to 49-year-old cohort in 2006 includes those who were 18 to 29 in 1992, so one may surmise that this group has moved in the "pro-life" direction. This would be consistent with the self-interest hypothesis: As young adults age, they tend to get married, and therefore to become less worried about unplanned pregnancy.
If both the self-interest and the Roe effect hypotheses are true, then one would expect, 15 years hence, that today's young adults--who will be in their 30s and 40s by then--will be even more "pro-life" than today.
This may be bad news for the Democratic Party. Blunt and Steeper find that the political parties have become more polarized around abortion: In 1992, 56% of "strongly pro-life" voters identified themselves as Republicans and 33% as Democrats; by 2006, the numbers were 62% and 25%. "Strongly pro-choice" voters have moved from 30% to 21% Republican and 58% to 68% Democratic. Given the electorate's overall "pro-life" shift, greater polarization is a net gain for the GOP.
Of course, the politics of abortion could change during that time, most notably if the Supreme Court overturns Roe. That could happen with a single change in the court's makeup: Currently the justices are split 5-2 in favor of sustaining the right to abort, but Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito have not stated a position.
Overturning Roe would shift the debate away from the most brutal forms of abortion and toward the question of whether all or most abortion should be illegal--that is, from the "pro-choice" extremes to the "pro-life" ones. Such an outcome would likely benefit the Democrats, yet current politics oblige the Democrats to fight it with all their might.
But all is not lost around the world: In India, Mumbai Judges: The Foetus is a Human Being. (Well, they didn't say from Conception, but it is a start: "from the 13th to the 27th week, the embryo turns into a foetus and attains a recognisable human form." and "Hence in the case in point, the commission established that unborn child in the womb was living and therefore is considered a victim." ....
Read the full stories above, please.
Ave Maria, Dei Genetrix, ora pro eis.
Ave Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro eis.