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The pendulum has swung back.

For the last 2 years Gallup’s annual poll asking the question, “With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?” swayed our way.

This year it didn’t. What does it mean?

My pro-life friends elsewhere pointed to positive data from the same poll indicating that despite the aforementioned, we have made gains: 51% of Americans consider abortion morally wrong and 61% of Americans think abortion should be illegal in most or all circumstances….

This could be why, as Dave Andrusko at National Right to Life notes:

The headline is a useful starting point:

Far too often most attention is paid to the response to the basic Gallup question….

But, as veteran Gallup analyst Lydia Saad points out… [w]hen you get people fuller, more nuanced options, it turns out that “61% now preferring that abortion be legal in only a few circumstances or no circumstances.”  Only 37% want abortion legal in all or most circumstances.

Thus Saad properly concludes, “Americans are rather conservative in their stance on abortion.”

Joe Carter at First Things agrees the 61% is “the key finding,” adding:

“Pro life” or “pro choice” are political terms that are subject to interpretation.  For example, if someone wants abortion outlawed except for life of the mother, incest, or rape, is that person pro life?  Or is he/she pro choice?  Which to choose when answering a poll is in the eye of the beholder (as it were).

And this, I think, may explain the shift in ideological identification on abortion. In 2009 (and 2010) Gallup blamed Obama’s pro-abortion aggression in part for the pro-life lurch:

With the 1st pro-choice president in 8 years already making changes to the nation’s policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans… seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position….

It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public’s understanding of what it means to be “pro-choice” slightly to the left, politically. While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction.

In 2010 Republicans took control of the US House and won a majority in state legislatures and governorships. Subsequently pro-life legislation has taken the country by storm. Perhaps those in the mushy middle are uncomfortable with our sudden forward movement. They don’t pay attention to the specifics, just know something’s up and don’t trust us not to push things too far.

Or they’ve heard pro-abort slant on our gains, such as this from RH Reality Check:

So what has likely caused this shift in the public perception of abortion?  No doubt it’s the overreaching of the anti-abortion movement in the past year, from attempting to force women who are raped to carry their attacker’s child to forcing mandatory counseling, ultrasounds and wait periods, to anti-child positions like pulling family planning and prenatal care from low income women.

This may be ridiculous spin to us but not to those who don’t closely follow the issue. The heartening news is we appear to be slowly winning the moral argument against abortion.

But those conflicted on abortion may not want to be identified with the side that appears too aggressive, at this point, us. Whichever term is considered politically incorrect or uncomfortable at the moment is the loser, despite the belief.

So at present we know there are more of those who are pro-life in their hearts- they just don’t want to be called pro-life.

A classic example of what I mean is a recent quote by actress Kristen Stewart. Stewart plays Bella in the Twilight movie series, and in the next film, Breaking Dawn, Bella determines to carry her baby, fathered by a vampire, even if it kills her. Picking up on that, from Entertainment Weekly:

On one of the most anticipated scenes described in the final book – the birth of Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella’s… baby, Renesmee… Stewart says, “This could really happen to anyone my age. I mean, maybe not the whole vampire thing, but everything else. It didn’t feel like, ‘Oh, how could you have possibly played this? It’s so beyond your years!’ It’s like, ‘Not really, dude. I could get f—ing get pregnant tomorrow.”

Stewart also defends her character’s choice to keep the baby, even though it threatened Bella’s life. “I’m so on Bella’s side,” she says. “The idea of destroying something they made together that could never happen again…. It has nothing to do with the pro-life thing. I just love the idea of her fighting.

No. Stewart’s beliefs have everything to do with the “pro-life thing.” She absolutely gets the miracle of uniquely created human life, and her maternal instincts are repulsed at the thought of “destroying” it. Stewart is pro-life. She just doesn’t want to be identify herself as pro-life.

That, I think, is the takeaway from Gallup’s 2011 poll.

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