In May, Abacus Data, a new Canadian polling firm that conducts surveys for Sun News (broadcast and print), surveyed 1,007 Canadians about their attitudes on abortion. Pro-lifers should be overjoyed at the results even if they seem to lead to an unjustifiable policy conclusion.
Abacus polled on four questions, but two are worth highlighting. In one question Abacus asked which of two statements most accurately reflected respondents’ views on the abortion debate: “Some things are better left alone – now is not the time to reopen the abortion debate” or “when discussing matters of life and death there is never a bad time for debate – we shouldn’t be afraid to debate tough questions.” A majority – 52 per cent – said we should not avoid the debate. Only a quarter (26 per cent) said we should not re-open the abortion issue while 22 per cent said neither statement best summed up their view.
The poll shows that Canadians are ready to have a debate about abortion. Politicians need not cower in fear of the A-word.
In another question, Abacus asked “when do you believe human life should be legally protected?” and provided several options: from conception, after three months of pregnancy, after six months of pregnancy, from birth, or not sure.
The most popular response was from conception: 27 per cent. The second most popular was from birth: 22 per cent. In other words, most people are at the so-called extremes, but the uncompromising pro-life view is five percentage points ahead of abortion-on-demand. That should be a solid base to build upon.
But the news gets better.
Another 21 per cent favour abortion only in the first three months of pregnancy and another 11 per cent would restrict the procedure to the first six months. In other words, nearly one-in-three Canadians want abortion restricted to the first or second trimester – in opposition to the status quo of abortion-on-demand.
Meanwhile, nearly one-in-five (19 per cent) are not sure, reflecting the complexity of the issue in many people’s minds.
In all 59 per cent of Canadians want life protected before birth and 78 per cent are not comfortable with the status quo.
Overall, the numbers are very promising for the pro-life movement, despite serious questions surrounding an incremental approach that restricts abortion by gestational age. The Interim has quite rightly taken an editorial stance against gestational limits to abortion as adding the insult of age discrimination to the injury of abortion.
The challenge and opportunity for the pro-life movement is to exploit the public’s clear unease about a limitless abortion license. Taken along with past polling data from Environics sponsored by LifeCanada, it is clear that Canadians do not like the status quo. Whether it is a ban on specific procedures, attacking taxpayer funding of abortion, or educating the public about the complete lack of restrictions, pro-lifers should be able to find a way to grow the public’s unease into revulsion.
Oswald Clark is a Boston and Washington-based economist and contributor to The Interim’s Soconvivium blog.