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Culture

New Poll Shows Small Gains in Pro-Life Sentiment

Pro-life demonstrators outside the Supreme Court during the March for Life in 2011. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

This week, CBS News released a poll that surveyed more than 1,300 Americans from late May to early June and included some questions about abortion policy. The results contains good news for pro-lifers, indicating that 55 percent of respondents think that abortion should either “not be permitted” or be “available, but under limits.”

This represents a one-point gain on this question compared with last year’s CBS News poll. Meanwhile, the poll found that 63 percent of Americans think the U.S. Supreme Court should keep the Roe v. Wade decision “as is,” a four-point drop from last year.

This survey is particularly noteworthy because it is the first nationwide survey on public opinion about abortion to be conducted since the coronavirus pandemic. It was difficult to predict how the coronavirus might affect opinions on life issues, but pro-lifers had some reasons to be concerned.

For instance, the spike in the unemployment rate has led to widespread economic suffering, and there exists evidence that women tend to seek abortions as the result of economic pressures. Also, disruptive societal events often affect the religiosity of Americans, another factor that is strongly correlated with abortion attitudes. Indeed, the Millennial generation, which came of age in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, tends to be less religious than other generations.

Given these considerations, pro-lifers should be relieved that this CBS News poll indicates a gain in pro-life sentiment. Even so, there remain reasons for concern. Although this poll found that pro-life views enjoyed a modest gain, there some evidence that the incidence of abortion may have increased, at least in some places, since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Some abortion clinics and abortion funds, for instance, have reported an increase in the demand for abortion. Recent data from Florida indicate that the number of abortions performed in the state this year to date is approximately 3.5 percent higher than it was at this time last year. Pro-lifers need to increase our support for pregnancy-help centers, which offer practical assistance to alleviate the hardships that cause many women to seek abortions. During this time of disruption, there remain plenty of ways for pro-lifers to build a culture of life.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.

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