Over at National Review Online, my friend Dr. Michael New has an analysis of the latest Pew Poll on American views on abortion. It’s an encouraging analysis:
On Thursday, the Pew Research Center released the first nationwide poll on sanctity-of-life issues since Joe Biden’s inauguration. Like the Knights of Columbus/Marist poll that was released this past January and the CBS News and Gallup polls which each came out in 2020, it shows that public attitudes on the issue of abortion have remained relatively stable during the pandemic. Overall, the poll shows that 39 percent of Americans think that abortion should be illegal in “all or most cases.” This is a one percentage point gain from a survey that Pew conducted during January and February 2020.
The main takeaway from pro-lifers from this poll is that those who identify with the Democratic Party are becoming increasingly more supportive of legal abortion. The Pew survey finds that 80 percent of those who either identify as Democrats or lean Democrat think abortion should be legal in “all or most cases.” As recently as 2014, only 67 percent of Democrats held this view. As such, political polarization on sanctity-of-life issues continues. Self-identified Democrats and those who lean Democrat are 45 percentage points more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say abortion should be legal “in all or most cases.” Seven years ago, this gap in abortion attitudes was only 30 points.
This shift explains why many Democratic elected officials have become more aggressive in their support for legal abortion in a relatively short period of time. An older generation of Democrats who were largely moderate on social issues is passing away and being replaced with a younger generation that is considerably more liberal and secular. This explains why the Hyde amendment, which used to pass with bipartisan support, is now strongly opposed by many Democratic congressmen and senators. Indeed, every major candidate who sought the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination publicly opposed the Hyde amendment.
This shift also explains why in many blue states, there are efforts make abortion policy more permissive. During the past few years, both Illinois and Maine have required that their state Medicaid programs cover elective abortions. Earlier this year, the ROE Act in Massachusetts weakened pro-life parental-involvement law in that state. This year, pro-lifers in Illinois have done admirable work defending their state’s pro-life parental-involvement law. Similarly, the Reproductive Health Act remains stalled in the New Jersey state legislature. However, pro-lifers in blue states need to continue to mobilize Republicans and independents to protect the existing pro-life laws in their states.
It is nothing short of staggering that while Americans have trended left on nearly every social issue—marriage, pornography, LGBT rights—the pro-life movement has held the line and support for the right to life has remained steady for decades.