Pro Life. Pro Choice. Pro Truth.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD's former President, Fay Wattleton, conducted a survey in June 2003 for her organization, The Center for the Advancement of Women, which much to her surprise, yielded results few feminists expected back then.
She had commissioned Princeton Survey Research Associates to do a major study on contemporary feminism.
The result was "Progress and Perils: A New Agenda for Women," a 140-page report on women's views on a range of issues, including abortion.
The central finding: Far from wanting abortion as readily available as botox or tattoos, most women oppose the procedure.
As Wattleton wrote in the introduction, "There is significant and growing support for severe restrictions on abortion rights."
Of the 3,329 women surveyed, 51 percent wanted to ban abortion altogether or to limit it to cases of rape, incest, and where the mother's life is endangered. Another 17 percent said the procedure should be available under stricter limits than now apply.
Not only did this report in 2003 CONFIRM then that majority of women were "Pro Life" it also served to undermine three political myths regarding womens views on abortion:
The report classifies women into six groups, based on their attitudes toward women's roles and social status:
On the conservative end are the "traditionalists" and "family first women." In the middle are the "separate-but-equals" and "modern feminists." And on the left are the "movement legacies" and "advocates."
The first myth the study exposes is that soccer moms are pro-choice. Of these groups, the separate-but-equals correspond most closely to soccer moms. Largely white, they are the second-most educated group. Almost all of them think a woman can be a good mother and have a successful career simultaneously. They sound like a typical Democratic constituency.
But 42 percent of them would ban abortion altogether or limit it to the hard cases, while another 21 percent would impose some restrictions on the procedure. Thus almost two-thirds of them support, minimally, some form of restriction on abortion. Only 35 percent said they thought abortion should be widely available.
The second myth the study undermines is that Republicans will lose if they openly oppose abortion.
Of the six groups profiled in "Progress and Perils," four heavily favor greater curbs on the procedure.
And it's not only the traditionalists (69 percent), most of whom are evangelical, and family-firsts (70 percent), most of whom are working class and live in small towns, who feel this way but also the separate-but-equals and the center-left modern feminists (67 percent), many of whom are black and Hispanic and poor.
The third myth the study calls into doubt is that most women support Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.
This myth was recently conveyed in the Washington Post by David von Drehle in an article about the Supreme Court's decisions on abortion and civil liberties: "Polls consistently show that the majority of Americans have little appetite for reversing the court's path on social issues." .
Which polls is von Drehle referring to?
It certainly wasn't the poll Wattleton's organization, then called the Center for Gender Equality, took four years ago, which found that 53 percent of women favored outlawing abortion or restricting it to the hard cases--a pre-Roe standard.Nor could von Drehle be referring to the current study, in which 51 percent of women felt the same way. Of course, even Republican pollsters acknowledge the difficulty of overturning Roe and Doe.
The message [of the study] is clear:
In a June 28 story for National Journal, CNN political analyst Bill Schneider, who also serves on the board of advisers for Wattleton's organization, wrote,"For most women today, quality-of-life issues prevail over women's rights. This shift is likely to put liberals at a distinct disadvantage in any fight over a Supreme Court nominee."It came as a shock to Planned Parenthood back in 2003 when the results became known, because they were then, and continue now, to be very low key about discussing that survey, whose results are reflected six years later in today's recent poll:
Of course, "Progress and Perils" isn't an exact road map for Republicans. It didn't ask respondents about specific abortion curbs, such as parental notification, or whether they support the procedure during the first trimester.
Also, the study makes clear that some feminist principles remain popular. A strong majority of respondents say that the women's movement has helped them (60 percent) and that one need not be a mother to live a complete life (72 percent). Neither of those answers, however, is incompatible with pro-life and Republican positions. On abortion, not only are most women not pro-choice, but their position might be described as, well, Republican.
" More Americans Are Pro Life Than Pro Choice For The First Time"
PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 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.
The same three abortion questions asked on the Gallup Values and Beliefs survey were included in Gallup Poll Daily tracking from May 12-13, with nearly identical results, including a 50% to 43% pro-life versus pro-choice split on the self-identification question.
Republicans Move to the Right
The source of the shift in abortion views is clear in the Gallup Values and Beliefs survey. The percentage of Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) calling themselves "pro-life" rose by 10 points over the past year, from 60% to 70%, while there has been essentially no change in the views of Democrats and Democratic leaners.
Similarly, by ideology, all of the increase in pro-life sentiment is seen among self-identified conservatives and moderates; the abortion views of political liberals have not changed.
With the first pro-choice president in eight years already making changes to the nation's policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans -- and, in particular, Republicans -- seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position. However, the retreat is evident among political moderates as well as conservatives.
Perhaps now Meghan McCain and her ilk will shut up about the Republican Party needing to become more "moderate".