I glanced at the headline, filed it away to come back the next day (July 31), and then promptly forgot about “New abortion poll oversimplifies complex issue, UCSF professor says.” I read the story this afternoon and was, frankly, shocked by the candor of the responses from Tracy Weitz, a sociologist and an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.
Not only does she describe herself as “pro-choice,” she works in the belly of the beast—UCSF—aptly described by NRL Director of Education Randall K. O’Bannon as “the nation’s abortion training academy.”
Most of the attention paid to the Pew Research Center poll (the poll referred to in the story’s headline) centered on its unsurprising finding that there are deep differences on abortion depending on the region of the country. (See “What the regional divide over abortion tells us”)
Weitz compares the results from this poll on the basic question of when should abortion be legal with those of a Wall Street Journal/NBC survey which differ considerably–and goes on to explain why “black and white polls” not only hide more than they reveal but are not helpful to the pro-abortionist’s cause.
According to the story by Eric Schulzke for Deseret News, Weitz argues, “Most polling around abortion is now used as an advocacy tool rather than as an understanding tool,” adding, “It all depends on how people interpret the question.” (Hint: what is support for a limited category of abortion comes across as support for “many more reasons.”)
“In fact,” Schulzke writes, “she said, most abortions occur in the first trimester and are for economic reasons — a justification most Americans reject.” According to Weitz
“If you look at it numerically, most Americans think abortion should be illegal in most numerical cases.”
Wow! A honest assessment. You can read the story in its entirety here at so let me make just two other quick points.
First—and again a credit to the story’s honesty—Schulzke explains how the public doesn’t understand how pro-life it actually is (my characterization). He wrote
“People are confused not just about the numbers when it comes to abortion. They also are confused about labels. Clustering the issue under a single heading tends to cloud political dialogue and obscure the real public pulse. For instance, in May Gallup found that 51 percent of Americans think the public is ‘pro-choice,’ while just 35 percent believe most Americans are pro-life. The very same poll found that 48 percent actually called themselves pro-life, compared to 45 percent who considered themselves pro-choice.”
He also looks at something we have written about extensively: that all the polls asking whether abortion should be banned after 20 weeks (by which time the unborn can feel pain) find majority support. The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll minimizes the level of support because there is too much editorializing in the question. When asked straightforwardly, support for such a ban is in the 60%+ range.
Second, when you get to the end of the story, you find out why Weitz is so hard on what she calls the “dichotomous approach” (also known as black and white).
CLICK LIKE IF YOU’RE PRO-LIFE!
“I think the pro-choice movement is having trouble breaking through to have a conversation with an American public that has a more nuanced position on abortion,” Weitz said. “They are more conflicted on it. They have a lot of questions. They want some regulation of abortion, but they don’t know what it is. The only people who are speaking to them are the folks who are putting forward regulations.”
That’s interesting because we pro-lifers often lament that polls are way too simple. It is we who traditionally argue, for example, when you dig into the responses people make to questions that don’t really touch where people are at, you find (as Weitz admits) that people do not find economic justifications a sufficient reason to abort a child.
In fact, a majority would not support the reasons 90% (or more) of all abortions are performed. Or as Weitz awkwardly phrases it, “If you look at it numerically, most Americans think abortion should be illegal in most numerical cases.”
More tomorrow about recent polls on abortion.
LifeNews.com Note: Dave Andrusko is the editor of National Right to Life News and an author and editor of several books on abortion topics. This post originally appeared in his National Right to Life News Today —- an online column on pro-life issues.