This week the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) released the results of a Polling Company survey which showed substantial public support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The bill would ban abortions in Washington, D.C. after 22 weeks when there is medical evidence that the unborn can feel pain. Right now nine states have similar laws in effect. The results of the NRLC/Polling Company survey show that 63 percent of Americans support these laws and 58 percent of Americans would be more likely to vote for a member of Congress who voted in favor of such a law.
Pro-life groups should conduct more research on attitudes toward incremental pro-life laws. This is because professional polling organizations rarely do this on their own. For instance, since 1995 Gallup has asked respondents to identify themselves as either “pro-life” or “pro-choice” 25 times. In that same timespan, they have conducted opinion surveys about waiting periods before abortions three times and parental-involvement laws four times. This is likely because, up until recently, more people self-identified as “pro-choice” rather than “pro-life.” However, many incremental pro-life laws enjoy fairly broad support.
A breakdown of the NRLC survey reveals some interesting findings. For instance, young adults age 18 to 44 were more likely to support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act than older Americans. This is consistent with a growing body of research, which shows that young adults are more likely than other demographic groups to oppose abortion in specific circumstances. Also, women were considerably more likely to support the act than men. Many opinion surveys show that men and women have similar attitudes about abortion. However, these results indicate that this particular issue seems to resonate well with women.
Finally, people with higher levels of formal education and higher incomes were somewhat less likely to support the act. This is consistent with a substantial body of opinion research which shows that those with high incomes and high levels of formal education tend to be more supportive of legal abortion. However, the differences among cohorts from different income groups and education levels were fairly slight.
Overall, the results indicated that nearly all demographic groups were very supportive of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bodes well for the pro-life movement. During the 1990s, the debate over partial-birth abortion shifted the abortion debate to terrain favorable to the pro-life movement and moved public opinion in a pro-life direction. Legislation, both at the state and federal level, to ban abortions of unborn children capable of feeling pain could well have the same effect in this decade.