Friday, November 13, 2009

Abortion Statistics

So I'm watching "Morning Joe" in the a.m. again (but only when I wake up at 4, or when I'm getting ready for 6 a.m. boot camp). This morning, Lawrence O'Donnell was on, looking about as sleepy as I felt. They started talking about coverage for abortions in insurance. I guess the RNC found out that it had insurance coverage for abortions in its insurance policy, and has now eliminated that coverage (after Politico reported on it). So Joe Scarborough asked O'Donnell what he thought about that. O'Donnell began by saying that the majority of Americans support abortion rights. Scarborough interrupted him, said it isn't 1972 anymore, and that the statistics show that Americans don't support abortion rights anymore. O'Donnell said to go ahead and show his poll, but O'Donnell remained correct. O'Donnell then cited an interview with John McCain from some time ago. Apparently McCain was asked if he would be against abortion if his daughter was pregnant. McCain said that he'd have to think about that. (I can't find the quote.) O'Donnell rephrased it: so it's fine for everyone else to ban abortion, but maybe not for my daughter, but I'm still against abortion because I'm a Republican. O'Donnell then used that quote to say that politicians treat abortion as a political issue, regardless of personal belief, and it keeps them out of touch with the reality of the country's leanings, to be so black and white about it.

The discussion got me thinking: are Americans against abortion now? So I looked it up and found a great compilation of surveys taken over the years, including recent surveys taken in 2009. Taken as a whole, and not cherry-picking favorite results, I think the polls are pretty solidly consistent: a majority of Americans believe in a right to choose, with some concern about the circumstances (which I attribute, at least in part, to misinformation out there about third trimester abortions) and only a handful believe that abortions should be outlawed in all cases. Another interesting stat: most see it as one of many issues, not the key issue for which they must vote yea or nay on a candidate. Some of those same people who believe in choice also see themselves as pro life, which is perhaps where some of the confusion lies. Bottom line, however, O'Donnell was right, Scarborough was wrong, and Congress is doing what it often does - it is listening to the loudest, most boisterous voices, not the much-quieter majority.

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