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Archive for December, 2018

Abortion By the Numbers

By Kate Gruver, KFL Communications Director

I hate math. I get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever my son would come home with questions on his math homework. I understand bits and pieces but, overall, it intimidates me and I usually don’t know what to do!

That is why one of the best presentations for me at the National Right to Life Convention this summer was a talk explaining all about the “math” of polls. National Right to Life executive director, Dr. David O’Steen, presented “By the Numbers, Understanding Abortion Polling Data.” Dr. O’Steen’s presentation explained what public polling numbers are telling us. Polls went from basic, “Do you consider yourself pro-life?” to more complex questions of level of abortion acceptability, morality.

Dr. O’Steen began with the basics from The Polling Company’s November 8, 2016 poll that shows an exact half and half ratio of people who consider themselves pro-life vs. pro-choice. That sounds like a frustrating statistic considering how hard the pro-life movement works to get the truth about abortion to the public. But, Dr. O’Steen corrected that assumption. The 50/50 poll is actually a “pat on the back” for pro-lifers!

Looking at the numbers going back as far as 1995 from Gallup polls, the pro-life stance has gained ground! When asked if an individual considers him/herself pro-life in 1995, it was 56% pro-choice, 33% pro-life. Wow! Half and half may seem like an unwinnable stand still, until it is compared to 1995, then it’s a victory! The numbers in between show the battles were slowly but progressively won for the pro-life movement. In 2006, considering oneself pro-life shot up 8% to 41% versus 51% pro-choice. In 2015 still growing, 44% declared pro-life, then in 2017 it upped to 46% and 48% in 2018. These Gallup polls tell us, keep up the fight! The tables are turning and we will continue to gain ground!

graph of Gallup poll

But there is a follow-up question. What does “being pro-life” or “pro-choice” mean? Seems like that should be obvious, right? Other abortion polling questions show us this does need clarification, where do people “draw the line” on abortion?

Gallup, Public Religion Research Institute, The Polling Company, and Marist Polls pose multiple questions on abortion acceptability to establish a baseline of belief, and, therefore, what the pro-life or pro-choice stances mean. These polls ask for a description of opinion toward abortion and offer 6 potential answers that best evaluate the different levels of beliefs and values. The options are as follows: abortion should never be permitted under any circumstance, only to save the life of the mother, only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, only during the first 3 months, only during the first 6 months, available to women any time during pregnancy.

An encouraging Gallup poll from May 2018 shows 53% of those polled said abortion should be illegal in all or legal in only a few circumstances while only 43% said legal under most or any circumstances. A Marist Poll conducted from December 2017 – January 2018 broke it down further by asking “Which one of the following statements comes closest to your opinion on abortion?”

graph of Marist poll

These polls generally reflect that for someone who considers themselves pro-life or pro-choice, there are three levels to each side. There is a relatively equal opposing view on each side. The majority of pro-life polltakers (31%) said abortion should be permitted in the special circumstances of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother, while the closest number on the pro-choice side is 26%, voting abortion should only be legal in the first three months of pregnancy. Pro-lifers in the next group, 12%, said abortion is only acceptable to save the life of the mother while 11% of pro-choicers said abortion is only acceptable through the first 6 months of pregnancy. The smallest number on the pro-life side was 8%, people that voted abortion should not be permitted in any circumstance. Unfortunately, the remaining poll numbers for pro-abortion were 12% stating abortion should be legal at any time during pregnancy. This parallel in numbers on each said indicate that whether pro-life or pro-abortion, most people believe that there are acceptable exceptions or regulations necessary and that only a small number of people believe 100% in one side or the other regardless. This also reminds us that we may have some common ground with those on opposing sides, and that we may not have the exact same views as those on the same side.

Dr. O’Steen discussed polls asking if abortion is morally acceptable or morally wrong. This subtracts exceptions and regulation from specific questions and just goes for degree of opinion morally. The Marist Poll from December 2017 – January 2018 asked “Do you believe that abortion is morally acceptable or morally wrong?” Of those polled 56% said abortion is morally wrong, while only 41% said it is morally acceptable. This same poll asked the question first posited in this article, “Do you consider yourself pro-life or pro-choice?” and it is split 48% each. That tells us even someone who identifies as pro-choice sees abortion as morally wrong, up to 8% of them as indicated in this poll! Why would a person see it as “wrong” but still authorize it as ok with their beliefs? The most likely answer in today’s society is a misguided, potentially libertarian view of, “I wouldn’t do it but I shouldn’t stop anyone else who wants to.”  It could also be that some people feel that the “end justifies the means” if it seems to be the easiest solution. We need to reach that 8% of the population and show them that “if it is wrong for one, its wrong for another” because abortion takes a life! Then we could tip the 48% scales well in the pro-life favor!

Gallup polls have also been conducted asking, “Is abortion morally acceptable or morally unacceptable?”

graph of Gallup poll asking whether abortion is morally acceptable

The chart shows that the answers don’t have much variability except for one year. A few things can be culled from this.

There are a small few that have no opinion or don’t consider abortion a “moral issue.” While it would be great to change everyone’s mind on life issues, this minority will not likely be changed easily and, as a small percentage, its likely not worth the pro-life movement’s time or investment to try to do so.

There is an average of 9.5% that feel abortion’s morality depends on the situation. Moral acceptability vs. unacceptability then does an unsurprising 9% fluctuation between the course of 16 years, paralleling the fluctuation of answers to the “do you consider yourself pro-life or pro-choice” question earlier in the poll. This percentage of people who tend more in the ‘grey’ area show a great potential for education! They are one of the cases that Dr. O’Steen discussed as game changers, a percentage of people in the middle that, if they learned the truth of abortion, would accelerate our numbers to a pro-life lead!

The Marist Poll of December 2017 to January 2018 polled on another very telling question about religious belief and scientific fact. The poll question posed “Is the statement ‘Human life begins at conception.’ a religious belief or scientific fact?”  The shocking answer is that 45% of those polled thought it was a religious belief! And 30% of those people self-identified as pro-life, while 58% self-identified as pro-choice.

These poll takers may think the statement “Life begins at conception,” is religious because it has been used on bumper stickers from spiritual ministries and on signs at churches. But it is a scientific fact! The 46% polled that stated it was scientific fact were 59% pro-life and 35% pro-choice. The trope that science and religion are at opposite ends of the spectrum is not new but it certainly seems to be to blame here. Saying life begins at conception is not scientific fact is like saying we need oxygen to breath is an opinion! Because something is a common pro-life statement and oftentimes used by religious pro-lifers, people have perceived “Life begins at conception,” as a religious belief and not scientific fact.

The interesting component is that of the 45% of those who think life begins at conception is a religious statement 58% were pro-choice, or basically, against the statement. The fact that the majority see it as religious and not science shows that people have bought into society’s attempt to manufacture facts to match what they want to believe.

Most people, perhaps, haven’t considered the basics of human biology to make the simple connection that our genetics are what make us an individual, and that is exactly what is created at conception.  This is a vain attempt to discard the rights of the unborn by defining a human as coming into existence at some milestone in time that works for abortion rights, like when it is visually human or the birth canal magically appoints humanity. A person doesn’t have to go very far into a biology text book to see; sperm + egg = fusion, fusion = new cellular entity. Every chromosome & genetic code an individual needs is written right there together. This zygote is completely new to the story of humanity, an individual person. This person only needs maturation time and nutrition, just like toddlers, kids, and teens need to get to the next stage in life! Despite accusations that “religion needs to accept science,” the 59% of pro-lifers that are likely religious, see the science quite accurately.

The Marist Poll of December 2017 – January 2018 shows another inconsistency in point of view.  The poll asked “In the long run, do you believe having an abortion improves a woman’s life or in the long run do you believe abortion does more harm than good to a woman?” 52% said abortion does more harm than good, while only 29% said abortion would improve a woman’s life. This same poll showed 41% of people found abortion morally acceptable and 49% said abortion was acceptable in either the first 3 to 6 months of pregnancy or anytime during pregnancy. Yet, only 29% of people thought it would actually improve a woman’s life! If abortion isn’t going to improve the woman’s life, which one could infer is the primary concern for the 49% who polled as pro-abortion, then why do it? Why would those 20% see abortion as morally acceptable, and yet, as not improving the abortive mother’s life? There seems to be a lack of concern not only for the pre-born, but also for the mother.

Additionally, those 29% who thought it improved a woman’s life need to be told about post abortion syndrome (post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by the abortion). This mental health reality can materialize days or years after the abortion and presents a myriad of symptoms, including suicide.

Dr. O’Steen’s presentation discussed other life issues that have been included in many of these polls. Both topics seem to slide in and out of the spotlight, garnering questions but not as many details as abortion questions.

Gallup polling from May 2018 asked, “When a person has a disease that cannot be cured, do you think doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life by some means if the patient and his or her family request it?”

graph of assisted suicide poll

The percentages have varied slightly, by 6% in 20 years, but, overall, the polls have shown three-fourths of respondents in support of physician assisted suicide from 1996 to present. That’s alarming.

This poll question establishes very specific parameters that are considerably more easily summed up in the question than they are in reality. It confirms the boxes that have to be checked before assisted suicide is considered: incurable, professionally performed by physician, patient and his/her family request it, painless. It’s a lot easier to get an affirmative answer when the hypothetical is put into play for a direct yes or no answer. There are no additional detailed questions that establish the degree of opinion like with the abortion questions. And there are no measurements for the opposing view, likely because it’s a lot more difficult as there are many variables to many different situations and options.

What happened in 1996 to give the highest number, one that we are approaching once again in 2018? A good guess is one name, Jack Kevorkian. It was the mid-90s that assisted suicide was given his face. This was the time that the topic came to the forefront of the news and people began to form an opinion, likely tooled around watching a seemingly benign, retirement-aged doctor that looks like just another grandpa but is willing to end lives himself. How does the media play a role in today’s opinions? Reports are starting to roll in from European countries where physician assisted suicide is more and more commonplace and if its ok there, why not here?

Another interesting fact is the same question was asked twice in the Gallup poll from May of 2018 but with slightly different wording which yielded a 7% response difference. One question asks “When a person has a disease that cannot be cured, do you think doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life by some painless means if the patient and his or her family request it?” The other asks “When a person has a disease that cannot be cured, and is living in severe pain, do you think doctors should or should not be allowed by law to assist the patient to commit suicide if the patient requests it?”

When asked if ending one’s terminally-ill life was ok, poll participants were 72% in support of it, while the question that used the terms suicide and severe pain only had 65% positive support. These questions were answered by the same people at the same time! This shows when people realize this is legalizing assisted suicide the number goes down. It is encouraging that, like abortion, oftentimes when people are fully aware of the reality of the issue, they are against it.

A Gallup poll from May of 2017 asked a variety of questions and compiled the results to compare answers from 2001 and 2017.

This poll asked if subjects were morally acceptable and included both doctor-assisted suicide and suicide. Doctor-assisted suicide was found to be morally acceptable by 49% in 2001, while suicide itself was morally acceptable by 13%. The repeated poll in 2017 added to these numbers. Doctor-assisted suicide was morally accepted by 57% and suicide itself by 18%! This poll shows numbers steadily increasing for the acceptability of all suicide! We need to activate! The more work we do in education the lower these numbers will get.

The 2017 Gallup poll also asked for the moral acceptability of “medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos.” In 2001 52% found it morally acceptable, in 2017 61% found it morally acceptable! That 9% jump is alarming considering all that we learned in that time span.

Fetal stem cell research has never yielded a single cure for any disease. What has been found to work both more effectively and efficiently are somatic stem cells, or adult stem cells. Not only do they work for research but they also work better to heal sick or damaged cells. The body can heal itself better when its own stem cells are used!  Embryonic stem cells are not even needed!

Listening to Dr. O’Steen’s presentation felt overwhelming at times, a lot of data over a lot of years. The numbers can be confusing. But what we have to remember is that whether the data seems to be in our favor or not, we have to keep fighting and continue to have pro-life topics at the forefront of discussions and elections. Keeping ourselves up-to-date on the issues and spreading the word is key to making pro-life the obvious choice for everyone!

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