Obviously, the big news yesterday for the pro-life movement was the Pew poll showing eroding public support for abortion. I spoke with David O’Steen, the Executive Director of the National Right to Life Committee, on what the poll results mean.
“It continues a trend we’ve seen all year. There were several polls that came out in late spring early summer, showing a similar trend including a Gallup poll for the first time showing a majority self-identifying as pro-life. We’re certainly encouraged by it,” O’Steen said.
And O’Steen acknowledges that the political climate certainly has a lot to do with the recent trends. “Obama’s quick response in January, overturning a number of President Bush’s pro-life initiatives and restoring funding to organizations overseas that perform abortions, brought the issue front and center and may have caused a lot of people with pro-life tendencies to become concerned,” O’Steen said. “Once again we have a strong initiative by President Obama and the Democratic leadership in congress to overhaul the whole health system in a way that would fund abortion and would probably be the greatest pro-abortion initiative since Roe v. Wade.”
The effect of all this is pro-choice support from the White House and Capitol Hill Democrats is pushing people with pro-life tendencies off of the fence. “People have to confront, ‘Do I or do I not want abortion funding?’ I truly believe that will cause people’s opinions to crystalize and once again focus on the issue. To the extent you confront that, people have to ask which side am I on?,” O’Steen said.
This is an interesting development politically, because the intensity is much stronger on the pro-life side. “The poll shows that people who oppose abortion are much more certain of their opinion than people who expressed support for abortion in the poll. I think there’s more ambivalance on the pro-abortion side, you also saw that people who opposed abortion were much more likely to consider this a critical issue than those who favored abortion,” O’Steen said. “For a long time we’ve known that in electoral politics of people that vote on abortion, the majority by about a three-to-one margin will vote for the pro-life candidate.”
Of course, most people aren’t single-issue abortion voters — McCain enjoyed a sizable advantage last year from pro-life voters, but that was obviously dwarfed by the advantage Obama enjoyed on the economy. But heading into mid-terms, a lot of the electoral advantages Democrats enjoyed just a short time ago are dwindling or have dissipated completely. O’Steen is hopeful increasing numbers of motivated pro-life voters could have an effect on upcoming elections.