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Limits on abortion have popular support

America is more pro-life than the abortion industry wants you to think


Ultrasound image of a baby in his mother's womb iStock/sunyaluk

Limits on abortion have popular support
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Here’s the truth: the average American is far more sympathetic to the pro-life side than abortion activists would have you believe. And this is a real reason for hope as pro-lifers consider the next steps in the fight to protect life.

Don’t believe me? Mainstream polling data shows considerable majority support for limits on abortion. While pro-abortion leaders refuse to support a single limit on abortion and want it funded with taxpayer dollars, multiple polls show a majority of Americans want it restricted after the first trimester, and reject taxpayer-funded abortion.

This issue carries with it such gravity and controversy that it demands the same level of nuance and attention to detail as we seek to map public opinion. If the pro-life movement is to determine its next steps in the fight for life, we first must gauge where the issue stands in the minds of average Americans.

While polling data from NPR shows that more than six-in-ten Americans say they support general abortion “rights,” two-thirds say they want it limited to the first trimester. This is a critical distinction, because we hear all about popular support for legal abortion—but little about how Americans overwhelmingly favor these limits championed by pro-lifers.

And this support for limits, by the way, is vastly out-of-step with leading abortion advocates and the leaders of the Democratic Party who not only want abortion legal until birth, but want it funded with taxpayer dollars.

Consider the developments of recent years. During the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, candidates were desperately trying to outdo each other in support of abortion. Candidates such as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke refused to endorse any specific limit on abortion, using the line that it was a decision best left to a woman and her doctor.

There are also plenty of moderates on the issue who want to reduce the abortion rate—and pro-lifers should work with them.

We’re hearing these same answers today. At a Senate hearing last week, two Democratic witnesses—a law professor and a doctor—refused to answer if they opposed legal abortion for any reason up to the point of birth.

When the House of Representatives earlier this year passed legislation requiring care for infant survivors of botched abortion attempts, Democrats and national medical organizations panned the bill. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists claimed that requiring care for infants interfered with an “evidence-based medical decision” between the mother and doctor. Never mind the utter barbarity of leaving a baby to die without care—in a situation that occurs more often than these groups would like to admit, they refused to endorse basic care to sustain a living human being.

Or take the issue of taxpayer-funded abortion. The Biden administration is now allowing publicly funded abortion for military servicemembers and veterans, and wants Medicare to fund abortions as well. California is funding abortion travel for out-of-state women. Yet a Marist poll by the Knights of Columbus shows that six in ten Americans oppose taxpayer-funded abortion.

There are also plenty of moderates on the issue who want to reduce the abortion rate—and pro-lifers should work with them. Activist groups might shout horrifying slogans like “abortion is health care” or “shout your abortion,” but the truth of the matter is that this fanatical support is anathema to many “pro-choice” state legislators and Americans.

The group Democrats for Life released a 2022 survey of likely voters in Virginia, showing that most voters don’t want abortion without exceptions in the second and third trimesters. And a majority of voters said they would be “less likely” to vote for a candidate who supported legal abortion up to the point of birth. This, in a state that Biden won by 10 percentage points.

I have personally met with religious and state leaders who may not support abortion bans but definitely work to provide tangible assistance to vulnerable mothers, giving them alternatives to abortion.

Americans as a whole are ideologically closer to pro-life policies than they are to the prevailing pro-abortion position.

The truth is that despite our fierce national divide on the issue, Americans as a whole are ideologically closer to pro-life policies than they are to the prevailing pro-abortion position. And this should galvanize pro-lifers everywhere to confidently act to change hearts and minds.

We must continue to appeal to the consciences of those Americans who are reluctant to support legal protections for life before 12 weeks. Contrast this support for limits after 12 weeks to the reasoning of Roe v. Wade that abortion had to be legal in the second trimester and that late-term abortion bans needed exceptions so broad as to be meaningless.

The Declaration of Independence clearly upholds the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Yet for 50 years, the right to life for children in the womb was usurped by unelected judges. Now the issue is back in the hands of elected officials, who have the authority to protect all human life—including children in the womb.

Government exists to protect and serve everyone, particularly the most vulnerable. This population includes preborn children, because even before the child is conceived, he or she existed in the mind of God. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

And technological advances are providing us with ever clearer glimpses of the humanity of the child in the womb. We can hear a child’s heartbeat at around six weeks. Major organs begin developing after three to four weeks. Evidence of brain waves can be detected as early as seven weeks. New research shows that children can feel pain and have fingerprints as early as 12 weeks.

Pro-lifers, let’s be bold in our arguments for protecting children in the womb. Now is not the time to retreat—we must shed light on the extremism of abortion activists. We have more mainstream sympathy for our positions than we realize. It’s time to go on the offensive and convince others why, if our laws give legal protections to a baby at 24, 20, or 15 weeks, they should also protect life from the moment of conception onward.


Dean Nelson

The Rev. Dean Nelson serves as the vice president of government relations for the Human Coalition, one of the largest pro-life organizations in the United States. He also serves as the chairman of the Douglass Leadership Institute, an education organization advocating for human dignity, strong families, and limited government. Rev. Nelson is a licensed minister from Salem Baptist Church in Marshall, Va., and an ordained bishop with Wellington Boone Ministries.


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