In April, a Harris-Decima poll found that Canadians were evenly split on whether abortion should be part of the government’s maternal health initiative: 48 per cent were opposed to including abortion, while 46 per cent were in favour. However, a new poll from the same company now finds that 58 per cent say abortion should be included while just 30 per cent think it should not.

The Canadian Press reported that Megan Tam, vice president of Harris-Decima, said the shift in support for including abortion suggests people have thought more about the issue. Often the biggest problem with polls is not the methodology or question but the pollster’s analysis of the numbers. What evidence does Tam have that people have deliberated carefully on the question of abortion and maternal health? How was that even possible? The pro-life arguments were not being made in the public square as the Conservative government steadfastly refused to defend its position while pro-life views were not a part of the media coverage of the issue.

To the extent that the mood of the public has shifted, it is the result of non-stop media coverage of Liberal talking points and hammering away at the government for being ideologically anti-women. To some degree, the maternal health debate now reflects not a carefully considered view of abortion as a part of development aid, but domestic views about abortion.

But even if the poll was an accurate description of how people have thought about the issue and come to particular conclusions, we are not sure it is all that significant. There is no indication that those who are opposed to the government’s plan sans abortion intend to vote based on the issue. In fact, there is a good chance that social conservatives who oppose abortion are more likely to cast their ballot based on this issue than the average voter. Furthermore, according to public opinion polls on the political parties, this policy has obviously not harmed the Conservatives; the Tories are now nearly 10 points ahead of the Liberals. Also, with every other major party supporting abortion as part of maternal health, the Conservatives get the 30 per cent who are opposed to that all to themselves.

Most importantly, however, is that popular support does not make a policy morally right or wrong. The Conservative government is doing the right thing combating maternal and infant mortality and they are correct to insist that abortion has no part of such an initiative.