For the first time since pollsters have asked the question, more Americans say they are "pro-life" than "pro-choice." A new Gallup poll revealed that the margin is not all that close: 51-42 percent.
I have maintained that technology eventually would cause those who are pro-choice to rethink their position. As someone who distrusts government generally, I can understand the desire to keep reproduction private -- the government is as ill-equipped to meddle in the bedroom as it is in the marketplace. That reasoning falters the first time one hears the sound of a baby's heart beat just a couple weeks after conception. And the image of a baby sucking its thumb on a sonogram makes it hard to dismiss this as a fetus or a choice.
But this is a polling shift that occurred over the course of one year; something else is at play besides fetal heart rate monitors and sonograms. The change is as sudden as it is profound:
The new results, obtained from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey, represent a significant shift from a year ago, when 50% were pro-choice and 44% pro-life. Prior to now, the highest percentage identifying as pro-life was 46%, in both August 2001 and May 2002.
Is the election of our first pro-choice president in years the cause of the shift? Or his demand that taxpayers subsidize abortions for poor people (even though the U. S. Supreme Court held that there is no constitutional right to such a subsidy)?
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.
It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be "pro-choice" slightly to the left, politically. While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction.
Maybe this newest poll will cause the Obama administration to moderate on the issue. I'd rather lose an issue and save lives. At the very least, it should encourage Republicans to hold fast to our beliefs and reject pressure to move to the center.