by Rod D. Martin
January 30, 2016
Last week’s Roe v. Wade anniversary may seem to many pro-lifers a sad reminder of how little progress has been made for the cause of life in 43 years. But a new Marist poll shows a massive shift in opinion from four decades ago, one which the law will eventually have to acknowledge.
While it is still true that Americans are split on “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice,” Planned Parenthood’s definition of “pro-choice” – unlimited abortion on demand through (and perhaps even beyond) the ninth month – is now rejected even by two-thirds of self-identified pro-choicers.
Indeed, so much have opinions shifted that 81% of Americans, 82% of women and 66% of pro-choicers want abortion banned after the first three months, or 12 weeks, of pregnancy at most. That’s the number in the Arkansas law tossed by the Supreme Court on Jan. 19, but well short of the 20 weeks in the Texas ban the Court will review later this year.
In short, regardless of what the Supreme Court may think, Americans have overwhelmingly rejected “viability” as a standard.
61%, including 60% of all women and a shocking 62% of pro-choicers, would support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks (five months) with the sole exception of saving the mother’s life. This helps explain why Wendy Davis was only able to garner 38% of the vote in her bid for governor of Texas.
The poll found that 77%, including 79% of women and 71% of pro-choicers, say that laws can protect the rights of both mothers and unborn children; only 17% disagree, including just 23% of pro-choicers. A majority – 55% to 30% – believe abortion harms a woman more than it helps her; over 27% of pro-choicers agree even with that.
Nearly 7 in 10 Americans (68%), including 69% of women and 51% of pro-choicers, oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, while just 29% support it. 51%, including 50% of women, believe health care providers and other organizations should have the right to opt-out of providing abortion services if they have moral objections. Even 34% of pro-chiocers agree with this.
And finally, 60% of Americans, including 33% of pro-choicers, believe that abortion is “morally wrong.”
It is important to note that, though few Americans know it, Roe v. Wade created the most expansive abortion regime on Earth. Only six other countries allow abortion after 20 weeks, among them North Korea, China and Vietnam. 139 countries place significant restrictions on the practice or ban it entirely. Of the handful that allow elective abortions, 21 limit it to the first 12 weeks, and six more ban it after 20.
Still, as I said, few Americans know this: most believe that America is normal (or if anything “behind”) due to “religious influence.” The media and the left (but I repeat myself) never cease beating this drum. Yet despite this, Americans have come to reject the “progressive” narrative.
This hasn’t happened by accident. Faithful pro-life activists, politicians and pastors have fought this battle for four long decades. They did so in the face of the strongest opposition; and in some respects worse than that, the overwhelming feeling of futility. How do you overturn a Supreme Court ruling? Brown vs. Board of Education proves it’s possible, but even Brown took 58 years. It’s hard to rally current preaching and action around such a fight.
What’s more, Baptists started on the wrong side. As late as 1979, six whole years after Roe, the Southern Baptist Convention endorsed abortion. A 1970 poll found that 70% of Southern Baptist pastors supported abortion in at least some cases, and a 1972 poll found that 90% of Texas Baptists found their state’s abortion laws “too restrictive.”
We’ve come a long way.
Though we must not lose sight of the almost 60 million lives lost since Roe – one out of every three members of my generation and that of my children – we must not despair of the slow progress. Christians have fought this fight before. For almost three centuries, they rescued Roman babies left in alleys to die, facing the death penalty – on crosses and in the Coliseum – if and when they got caught. In time, their sacrifice won over public opinion and the opinion of the Emperors. The fight against killing innocent children was won, and stayed won, for 1,800 years.
We are at that moment at which we may win it again. This is the time to double-down, in the pulpit, in the ballot box, in casual conversation. We are made in God’s image: to take an innocent life is the gravest sin we can commit against one another. And a culture that affirms the killing of some is a danger to us all.
It’s time for us to close this sale.
This article was originally published as part of my Beyond the Church Door series in the Florida Baptist Witness.