Sunday, May 17, 2009

Taking a Wide Stance on Abortion

After an AP story about President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame University mentioned that a new Gallup Poll shows a (bare) majority of Americans call themselves "pro-life," I took a quick look at the Gallup webpage. I've often talked to people, including women, who called themselves "pro-life," but say that they believe the decision should be between a woman and her doctor, not made by the law. This shows the weakness of such labeling, and the probable pointlessness of posing the question as Gallup did. As far as I know, the position that decisions about terminating pregnancy should be between women and their doctors is exactly what "pro-choice" means. (If Obama wants to get the opposed sides to stop demonizing each other, he could try pointing this out. Not that I'm holding my breath.)

Just for fun, let's call this "taking a wide stance on abortion." Like people who insist that they aren't gay or bisexual while carrying on an active sex life with members of their own sex and condemning more honest gay people, a Wide Stance Pro-lifer gets to put on a show of morality, condemning immoral pro-abortion radical feminists, while tacitly adopting their anti-life position.

And just as I suspected, a good many of the Gallup Poll's "pro-life" respondents turn out to be taking a Wide Stance. Yes, Gallup found "51% of Americans calling themselves 'pro-life' on the issue of abortion and 42% 'pro-choice.' This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995."

However, "about as many Americans now say the procedure should be illegal in all circumstances (23%) as say it should be legal under any circumstances (22%)", with 53% saying that the law should permit it under certain conditions (presumably the classic exceptions of rape, incest, or to save the mother's life, but the fact that the question wasn't worded that way leaves the door open to other options as well). This means that at least some, and probably a good many of those who called themselves "pro-life" were willing to kill babies some of the time. (Do I need to close-caption this for the Irony-Impaired? If so, consider it captioned.) So there are a lot of Wide Stance Pro-lifers out there.

An aside. I could have sworn I'd heard somewhere that Nancy Reagan was a Wide Stance Pro-Lifer, saying the decision should be between a woman and her doctor, but I couldn't find anything to that effect on Google. I did find her notorious remark "I believe that if you have an abortion you are committing murder," but I also found this delicious passage from Lou Cannon's book Governor Reagan. "In an agony of indecision, Reagan lied to reporters, a sure sign he was under stress." Come now -- Reagan lying to reporters or to the nation was a sure sign his lips were moving.