A recent survey conducted by the University of Notre Dame shows that only 33% of Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong. For pro-life Americans, it is a disappointing result but also a roadmap of how to engage with people about the issue of abortion.
Entitled “How Americans Understand Abortion,” the survey interviewed 217 “ordinary Americans” from March through August 2019. The desire was to address the various viewpoints by interviewing each individual and determining how they engage with the issue of abortion on social media, with neighbors and at public events.
The study included people from California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Indiana, North Dakota, and Tennessee. Each of the men and women represented various ends of the political and demographic spectrum.
According to the survey, the interviewees included 118 women and 99 men, of whom 54% were college educated, 53% were married, 68% were white, 14% were African American, 10% were Hispanic and 2% were Asian.
When it came to religion, 27% of the responders were weekly churchgoers and 35% had attended either one time that year or never. The religious groups represented included 41% Protestants, 21% Catholics, 4% Judaism, 7% other religions and 27% had no religious affiliation.
The study’s most disturbing conclusion was how few Americans considered abortion a moral issue.
Only 33% of the men and women interviewed “were morally opposed to abortion, while 38% of responses were categorized as ‘it depends,’ and 29% of participants were not morally opposed to abortion.”
Tricia Bruce, a sociologist who served as team lead, said, “So hearing them talk about it, we recognize the way that ordinary Americans talk about it is not the ways activists talk about it. Also, when they talk about abortion, it’s not a particularly happy moment. Even for those who see abortion as a public need and think it should be accessible, it’s still not talked about as a happy thing.”
The researchers also determined that those they interviewed did want to engage in discussions about abortion, but only if it could be done “away from the shouting.”
“Americans can talk about abortion under the right conditions,” the researchers concluded. “They are more inclined to enter conversations than debates, and would benefit from expanded education in science, law and moral reasoning.”
For pro-life advocates, this is incredibly encouraging and reflects a general change within the movement. In the 1990s, the pro-life movement, at times, could be seen from the outside as aggressive or even militaristic. Now the atmosphere is markedly different, and the pro-life movement does focus on science, law, and moral reasoning with great success and a growing number of young Americans embracing life.
In comparison, the pro-abortion movement has seemingly become more aggressive both in its language and action.
Abortion remains one of the most contentious issues politically. The country probably remains even more divided today than it did when Roe v. Wade was originally decided. But if cooler heads prevail, allowing discussion to happen, then perhaps the pro-life message will be better received.
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