I decided that it was finally time to complete and post Part 2, having promised it way back in September. The impetus is two polls on the subject released today and yesterday. But having read the polls, I feel like a second introduction to Part 2 is necessary. (The first introduction, posted a day after Part I, is here.)
The first introduction closed, “Absent something that causes a tipping point in public opinion on the same level of influence as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” [on the public’s perception of slavery] the approach to abortion I offer in Part 2 is, and will ever be, impossible.” The two polls purport to tell us what the public’s current perception of abortion is. At least, that’s how they are being presented in the news media, which, as we all know, is completely unbiased on this topic as well as others.
I’m joking. Most of the media is ignoring the second poll, by Marquette, which makes the Washington Post-ABC poll that is more positive toward abortion incoherent. The Marquette poll found that more of those polled favored a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy than opposed it. Survey respondents were asked if they would favor or oppose a ruling to “uphold a state law that (except in cases of medical emergencies or fetal abnormalities) bans abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.” This is a direct reference to to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which SCOTUS will hear oral argument regarding on December 1. The case turns on the constitutionally of a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after….. 15 weeks of pregnancy. Allowing the law would, if not overrule Roe v. Wade, significantly limit it. Yet 37% of those polled approved of a decision upholding such a law, while 32% opposed such a result. The remaining 30% said they didn’t know enough to make a decision.
In most polls on other topics, that group that pleads ignorance are apathetic slugs, but on this topic, maybe they are the wise ones. How many Americans really know what Dobbs is about, or even what Roe v. Wade really says? My guess is considerably less than 50%. Maybe less than 25%. 10%?
The Post-ABC poll that is being waved triumphantly in the public’s face is the one summarized in the diagram above (the data is here) and claims that large majorities of Americans “support maintaining Roe v. Wade, oppose states making it harder for abortion clinics to operate and see abortion primarily as a decision to be made by a woman and her doctor, not lawmakers.” How can that be the case if a majority also believes that woman and doctors should not be able to decide to abort an unborn baby after only 15 weeks?
What’s going on here?
Americans, except for small numbers of activists on both sides, haven’t thought carefully about the issues in abortion sufficiently to have an informed opinion about it. That’s what.
I would like to have the groups polled by Marquette and ABC/Washington Post pollsters asked if they have read Roe. What’s your guess: how many would say they have? 5%? Less? How many have thought about when a fetus should have the right to live? If they were shown a photo of a fetus at 8 months, would they support aborting it? Six months? Three?
Of those who say they support abortions in the case of rape or incest, and were asked why how a human is conceived should change its right to live, how many could answer intelligently? How many have thought about it? How many have the education and critical thinking skills to analyze the problem competently?
If you asked if a man who killed a woman who was three months pregnant should be prosecuted for killing one human being or two, what would the majority answer? If they answered “two” and then they were asked, “How can it be murder if an unborn child is killed by anyone else, but no crime if the killer is the mother?,” how many would mutter “Huminahumina”?
The vast, vast majority of Americans thinks about abortion so shallowly as to be ethically useless, simply following their peer groups, or joining one team of the other who band together under deliberately misleading labels: “pro-life,” which ignores on of the crucial interests in involved in abortion policy, and “pro-choice,” which ignores the other. Or they don’t think about abortion at all.
No political, legal or societal acceptable solution to the abortion ethics conflict is possible when the public remains this ignorant and apathetic. A condition precedent to any solution, therefore, is to bring about a dramatic shift in public consciousness and commitment—that tipping point I mentioned before. That’s what “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” did: it forced people who had never thought seriously about slavery and what it meant to think, and once they did, they opposed it.
Polls are easily manipulated and generally do more harm than good, but these two, taken together, show us a way out. The public needs something or someone who will make its members think about abortion and its issues, honestly and without the spin, obfuscation, emotionalism and bullshit. If a metaphorical slap in the face could be found for slavery, one can be made for abortion.
So getting to that slap is the first part of any solution.
Now I’m finally ready to finish Part 2…