FROM THE PRESIDENT
Wanda Franz, Ph.D.
PUBLIC OPINION AND THE MORALITY OF ABORTION
A recent survey (May 6-9, 2002; released May 21, 2002) by the Gallup Organization deals with "the state of moral values" in this country.
Abortion is considered "morally wrong" by 53%, is "morally acceptable" to 38%, and is to be judged "depend[ing] on the situation" in the opinion of 8%.
It is revealing to contrast this polling result with the responses to a question posed in the Los Angeles Times poll of June 8-13, 2000. The question was whether the respondent would consider abortion as an option if she (or the female partner, in the case of a male respondent) had an unplanned pregnancy. Overall, 66% said that abortion would not be an option. Accepting it as an option were 23%. A small fraction, 1%, would consider abortion but not do it. And 6% volunteered that their decision would depend on the circumstances. Even "liberals," the group most supportive of abortion (37% considered it an option), rejected abortion as a personal option with a clear majority (54%).
The comparison of the responses to the two poll questions suggests that the respondents make a distinction between "public" and "private" or personal morality.
The most obvious reason for the discrepancy is that the Supreme Court declared abortion a constitutional "right." This has been the law of the land for nearly 30 years; and "the law teaches" and instructs. Given the widespread tendency to consider what is legal also to be "moral" (in spite of personal reservations), it should not surprise that 38-40% of the public consider abortion "morally acceptable" (in a "public" sense, we can suppose), while only 23-25% would consider it as a personal option.
As part of the "what is legal must be moral" phenomenon, there is, especially in this country, a great reluctance to deny somebody else a "right," even if there is personal doubt about the legitimacy of that right. The pro-abortionists have exploited this mindset with their relentless campaign promoting the "constitutional right to choose."
Rejecting "rights" for someone else has become a mark of "political incorrectness." Thus, when one of the two major parties, the Democratic Party, makes the "right" to abortion a major plank in its election platform, then it takes a little intestinal fortitude to tell a pollster that you consider abortion "morally unacceptable."
Given such obstacles, the current poll about the morality of abortion is encouraging. In fact, another Gallup report (Gallup Special Report, released January 22, 2002) revealed that support for unrestricted abortion rights has dropped from about 33% to about 25% within the last five years. That Gallup report noted that our campaign to ban partial-birth abortions had a lot to do with that drop.
Another reason to be encouraged arises from the growing percentage of respondents describing abortion as "murder."
* In a Time/CNN poll of August 1994, 43% thought that abortion was murder, while 47% didn't.
* In a University of Virginia poll of January 1996, 38% considered abortion as "murder, as bad as killing a person already born"; 10% thought it was "murder, not as bad as killing a person already born"; 26% thought it was "not murder, [but] does involve taking a human life"; 16% considered it "not murder, [but] a surgical procedure for removing human tissue"; and 11% had no opinion on the matter.
Note: (1) The pro-abortionists' old line that abortion is "not murder, [but] a surgical procedure to remove human tissue" is the opinion of just 16%. (2) This survey took place before our campaign to ban partial-birth abortions focused the public's attention on what actually occurs in an abortion.
* A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of January 1998 found that 48% thought of abortion as murder, while 45% did not.
* A CBS/New York Times poll of January 1998 tallied 50% as having the opinion that "abortion is the same thing as murdering a child," while 38% agreed that "abortion is not murder because the fetus really isn't a child."
* In the Los Angeles Times poll of June 2000, 57% agreed that "abortion is murder," while 36% disagreed.
In the same poll, 57% thought it should not be possible for a woman "to obtain a legal abortion if the family has a very low income and does not feel they can afford more children," while 35% thought that it should be possible. In contrast, 68% agreed with the statement, "No matter how I feel about abortion, I believe it is decision that has to be made by a woman and her doctor," while 27% disagreed.
The answers to these three questions affirm what has been evident for some time: A majority of our fellow citizens thinks that abortion is a terrible thing (murder) and that women should not be allowed to resort to abortion for social or economic reasons, but a majority also becomes reluctant to interfere, once a "doctor" is brought into the situation.
A "doctor" in the context of polls on abortion suggests two things to the uninformed: (1) the typical reasons for abortion are "medical," potentially a matter of life or death for the mother, and (2) the decision is made with unbiased "professional" help. A more realistic poll question would be: "Over 90% percent of abortions are done for non-medical reasons and mostly for the convenience of the mother or couple. And over 75% do not involve a doctor in the decision-making; and when one is involved, it's usually the abortionist himself. Is this morally acceptable? Should this be legal?"
The "doctor" problem arises also for poll questions on suicide. The most recent Gallup poll finds that suicide is considered "morally wrong" by 83%, is "morally acceptable" to only 12%, and is to be judged "depend[ing] on the situation" in the opinion of 3%. In contrast, doctor-assisted suicide is considered "morally wrong" by only 44%; is "morally acceptable" to 50%; and is to be judged "depend[ing] on the situation" in the opinion of 4%. Once again, the involvement of a "doctor"--even one who kills--gives rise to serious moral confusion.
It will take an enormous educational effort to change the "doctor confusion." I count on you to join us in this task.