July 9, 2015


The Case of the Pro-Life Movement: On Demography and Marriage (Michael J. New, July 7th, 2015, Public Discourse)

After Obergefell v. Hodges, do these circumstances warrant despondency among those remaining supporters of marriage as the union of husband and wife? Not at all, for the same situation faced pro-lifers during the 1970s. Old laws and mores were overturned, and people seemed to like it. Then, too, analysts doubted the pro-life movement's life expectancy, for a couple of reasons.

First, as the post-Roe abortion rate increased, so did the number of people who knew someone who had an abortion. Some thought that such people would be motivated to keep abortion legal, for the more abortions there were that occurred, the more the reality of abortion would confront people. As people became acquainted with the pressures facing women in difficult circumstances, it was supposed, they would become more sympathetic with those who found a solution in abortion.

But even though the abortion numbers dramatically increased, people never really became desensitized. Many physicians did not want to perform abortions, and in fact some abortion advocates are worried about the decreasing numbers of physicians willing to perform them. But more importantly, many women who obtained abortions regretted their experience, and many men who were involved regretted their involvement. Ultrasound technology would quickly develop, and vivid pictures of unborn children would start to appear on refrigerators and bulletin boards. All in all, even though the incidence of abortion increased, many Americans simply never accepted Roe v. Wade the way they accepted previous Supreme Court decisions involving privacy and contraception.

Secondly, there were the facts to deal with. A number of 1970s opinion surveys revealed growing support for legal abortion, especially among young people. Of these, the General Social Survey (GSS) was and continues to be the most detailed, having collected the public's opinions on abortion since the early 1970s. Nearly every year, the GSS asks respondents whether or not abortion should be legal in each of six circumstances, ranging from hard cases involving rape or incest to easier ones concerning relatively unrestricted elective abortions.

Someone analyzing the GSS in 1975 might have gotten the impression that in the pro-choice position lay America's future. In fact, countless surveys showed that young adults were far more likely to support legal abortion than the elderly. But someone analyzing the GSS forty years later could be excused for drawing a very different conclusion. Indeed, the GSS shows that young adults are actually the most pro-life age demographic. Supporters of traditional marriage should take comfort in this fact; it is reasonable to hope that the marriage situation--both culturally and legally--will improve, grim as the present outlook might seem.

Posted by at July 9, 2015 7:32 PM

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