Growing Anti-Abortion Ranks Will Keep Republicans Marginalized

Yet another reason why Republicans could be a minority party for the long term.

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By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog.

Are we moving right on abortion? According to a new Gallup poll, Americans shifted sharply to the right on abortion rights between 2008 and 2009:

PRINCETON, NJ — A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion and 42% "pro-choice." This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.

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.

While the change in one year is startling, it is not exactly new. Former Planned Parenthood President Faye Wattleton released a poll in the early '90s that sported similar results:

Entitled "Progress and Perils: How Gender Issues Unite and Divide Women - Part Two" (Part One dealt with data in 2001), the study produced some startling results. Of 12 listed issues, "keeping abortion legal" as a "top priority in 2003" ranks next to last (before "more girls in sports") at 41%, down from 49% in 2001 (when it was also next to last). Only 3% consider "keeping abortion legal" the most important issue for 2003. Moreover, 27% and 28% say that keeping abortion legal is a "lower priority" or "not a priority," respectively.

Regarding the legality of abortion, 30% (34% in 2001) of women hold that "abortion should generally be available to those who want it" and 17% (19% in 2001) say that "abortion should be available but under stricter limits than it is now" (emphasis added). But 34% (31% in 2001) of women say that "abortion should be against the law except in case of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother;" and 17% (14% in 2001) hold that "abortion should not be permitted at all."

The Gallup poll attributes the bounce among people self-identifying as pro-life to a similar uptick among GOP loyalists who identify themselves as pro-life. So as the GOP is taken over by hardliners Senator McCain and Governor Palin, hardliner leaders are taking more adherents down the anti-abortion path. I do not believe that is the way to make the party the majority party in the future. In fact, the farther right GOP leaders move, the farther they push themselves into long-term minority status.

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