Why Are We Still Asking if a Dying Woman Should Be Able to Get an Abortion to Save Her Life?

A recent analysis of abortion attitudes by The New York Times came to the right conclusion: The divide on how Americans feel about abortion is much smaller than partisan politics would have us believe.

But there's a bigger idea that the piece in the Times — and the poll it relies on — missed: All too often, we're still asking the wrong questions when it comes to gauging public opinion on abortion. We're too focused on questions at the margins — death versus abortion, rape, and incest or abortion under all circumstances or no circumstances. These questions do little to illuminate the reality of most women's lives and the range of feelings people have about abortions that happen in the real world.

Much of the piece centers on how Americans feel about two questions. The first is whether a woman who needs an abortion to save her life should be able to get one. Why are we still asking this? Is whether a woman should be forced to die rather than have an abortion really still up for debate when it comes to public opinion? I don't think so.

The other question examined at length concerns a woman who wants an abortion because of the sex of the baby. To set the record straight, that's a largely imagined scenario, designed in part by abortion opponents to communicate the stigmatizing idea that a woman who has decided to have an abortion is doing so for a frivolous reason.  Not to mention that it's racist, relying on ugly stereotypes about women of color. Asking this question doesn't get at any kind of truth on abortion attitudes.

I'm thrilled that the analysis in the Times' got the real answer. But it's still not asking the right questions.

Women have abortions for complex reasons — to better take care of the children they already have, to pursue an education or career and improve their life circumstances, or simply because they know they are not in a position to be the best parent they can be.

For many years, it's been clear that when you ask people about how abortion impacts real women's lives — instead of party-line questions about abortion under all circumstances or no circumstances — you get surprising answers and high levels of agreement.

Vox recently took this wholly different approach. Instead of asking the standard questions, the poll asked questions like:

"Which comes closer to your view: The law says a woman has a right to an abortion. As long as this is the law, women should have access to safe and affordable abortion care. Or even though there is a right to abortion, we should work to reduce abortions by making it harder for women to access care."

And:

"Think about a woman who has decided to have an abortion. How would you want that experience to be for her?"

And even:

"If a close family member or friend told you she decided to have an abortion, would you give her a lot of support?"

When you ask these types of questions, a much deeper, more nuanced, and more accurate picture of attitudes on abortion appears. In that picture, it's clear that Americans are in overwhelming agreement that a woman who has decided to get an abortion should be able to get one without additional hurdles. They're in overwhelming agreement that we shouldn't be passing laws that make a woman who has decided to get an abortion feel ashamed about her decision.

And Americans agree that lawmakers who are determined to restrict access to abortion are moving our country in the wrong direction.

Buried in the Times piece, even with it's strange focus on scenarios that have little connection to most abortions, is one clear truth: "Focusing on the exact details of abortion decisions may reveal more about when Americans agree on this difficult issue than when they disagree."

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Anonymous

Finally, someone demonstrates how Poll questions SHOULD be asked. Well written.

Anonymous

why should anyone be able to decide if another should live or not? It's MURDER!

Anonymous

Don't you just love how the baby murderers on the left have to lie to support their infanticide. If your a woman who has an abortion then by the Aclus own admission your selfish. You want to kill your baby because it will hurt your financial situation or your career. Wow. How selfish can a woman be?

Anonymous

It is unfortunate that we have groups like the ACLU trying to defend a woman's "right' to kill another life. Just because that life happens to be inside that woman does not make it ethical or moral to kill that life. The people who support this supposed "right" do not include the facts in their propaganda literature. They say abortions are harmless and painless to both the mother and her baby. The truth is that major commercial operations like planned parenthood and others do not put safety as their top priority. Instead, they put money at the top and they are willing to kill and maim as many babies and cause as many deep physical and emotional wounds to the mothers as possible. If there is a mother reading this, I hope she researches how the procedure is performed. All I will say is it involves slicing up the baby in order to remove it from the womb. What really makes me both sad and angry is that organizations like the ACLU claim to represent and fight for the civil rights of the disabled and then they turn around and support abortion in court which 90% of children diagnosed with down syndrome in the womb have lost their lives to. Maybe the ACLU is intentionally overlooking these disabled humans' right not to be exterminated? All this to promote the image that women don't have to worry about the consequences of having sex because the ACLU will continue to fight to make sure that in the event your actions have consequences, you won't have to face them since abortion is legal. Come on people, if you have sex and get pregnant, don't make your baby pay for your actions. Instead, have the baby and put him or her up for adoption so that your gift of life will have a chance to grow up and live.

Robert Holley

Is there not an Amendment to the Constitution outlawing forced labor? Is not pregnancy and birthing, work. Done correctly it is 24/7 job. And if forced, is it not a form of punishment.

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