By Paul Tun
The Interim

A Gallup Poll brief obtained by The Interim indicates that the conventional wisdom on abortion – that there is a “pro-choice” consensus among Canadians – is wrong.

Josephine Mazzuca, a research analyst for Gallup Canada Inc., told The Interim that Gallup conducts a poll on attitudes about abortion almost every year because “Canadians are interested in this issue.”

Pro-lifers should be especially interested because the poll results indicate a slight shift to the pro-life side.

Since 1995, there has been a statistically significant shift away from the pro-abortion position. In 1995, 35 per cent of Canadians said abortion “should be legal under any circumstance.” Another 49 per cent said it should be “legal only under certain [undefined] circumstances,” and 13 per cent said it should be “illegal in all circumstances.” That last number was up 3 per cent from the previous year, indicating the beginning of a slight shift to a solidly pro-life position.

By 1999, support for abortion in any circumstance fell to 28 per cent and opposition to abortion in all circumstances rose to 15 per cent.

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes told The Interim he isn’t surprised by the results. He said the shift to the pro-life side began as more people began to know the truth about abortion and the humanity of the child in the womb, and as they became repelled by late-term abortions and aware of the trade in aborted baby body parts.

But Hughes says he knew the country was never as pro-abortion as the media and political “experts” said it was. Furthermore, he is optimistic that as the truth about abortion and its harmful effects on women become better known, pro-life support will only increase. He said the poll results should encourage pro-lifers to realize the “uphill battle will not be as steep as many thought.”

The poll indicates that Atlantic Canadians are the most pro-life (23 per cent pro-life, 12 per cent pro-abortion), but there is little difference between the attitudes of those in Ontario (16 per cent pro-life, 26 per cent pro-abortion) and the Prairies (16 per cent pro-life, 24 per cent pro-abortion). The most pro-abortion provinces are Quebec and British Columbia.

Hughes has long said people from Ontario aren’t as liberal on this issue as the chattering classes think it is. He said the polling results are a clear sign to all federal parties that holding pro-life views should not be considered a liability for candidates come election time.

Neither was Hughes surprised to find sightly stronger pro-life sentiment among women than men, with 16 per cent of women polled opposing abortion in all circumstances and 27 per cent supporting abortion in any circumstance, versus 13 per cent and 28 per cent respectively for men.

Hughes said the polling data contradicts the notion that abortion is just a women’s issue. He says that the ranks of the pro-life movement are filled with women and that the primary “beneficiaries” of abortion are men who can easily escape the consequences of their actions.

Among those who support abortion under certain circumstances, Gallup found 95 per cent in favour when a “woman’s health is seriously endangered by the pregnancy,” 88 per cent in favour when “conception is due to rape or incest,” and 75 per cent in favour when “there is a strong chance of a serious birth defect.” These figures have remained constant since the mid-1990s, after rising dramatically after 1990.

But while support for abortion within the first three months of pregnancy (57 per cent) has increased from 1990, support for abortion within five months of conception (22 per cent) has fallen since 1990 (30 per cent).

Support for abortion in circumstances where the family “cannot afford any more children” has dropped 10 per cent since 1990 to 27 per cent.

The brief said the national polling data is accurate within a 3.1 percentage point margin of error, 19 out of 20 times. Gallup did not say whether indirect abortions were included in the category of people who think abortion should be legal in some situations.