There aren’t many positions on abortion where most Americans have some common ground. But opposition to late-term abortion is one of them.
Every modern poll on the issue shows the same thing: Large majorities say babies should not be aborted in the later stages of pregnancy. Looking at Gallup over the years, opposition to abortion after six months has never dropped below 80 percent. Even at three months, the numbers are still impressive: Over 60 percent of Americans consistently oppose abortions after the first trimester, and in 2011 they rose to 71 percent.
If these were election results, you’d call it a landslide.
On Thursday, Governor Rick Perry signed into law a measure banning the abortion of unborn children after five months’ gestation. It also requires that abortions be done in ambulatory surgical centers, including RU-486 abortions, and that abortion practitioners have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of their location.
Reporters describe the new law as “sweeping” and “extreme.” The Washington Post wants its readers to think it’s one of the “strictest abortion-restricting bills” in the nation.
But the French might call it permissive. France bans abortion after just 12 weeks. In fact, most of Europe agrees with Texas. Most of the world agrees with Texas. So, who are the extremists?
We are often told we must reach common ground on the difficult questions in this country. This plea generally comes from the political left, for whom common ground on abortion means taxpayer-funded contraception, which simply changes the subject. On abortion itself, they admit no compromise: no limitation, no delay, no parental involvement, not even personal financial responsibility. “Pro-choice” politics in America is an all-or-nothing proposition, and journalists in Slate and other Left-leaning publications have exposed that.
But these views don’t represent America. When you look at America, which is weary of this fight, you see a growing agreement on various “pro-life” positions. More Americans identifying themselves as “pro-life” than “pro-choice” in the last several years. You see large majorities agreeing that abortion practitioners should let parents know before performing an abortion on their underage children, like the measure just enacted in Illinois after a decade-long legal battle against Planned Parenthood. And you see most Americans favoring legal bans on late-term abortion, like the new law in Texas.
At the same time, a “pro-choice” fringe has developed. Like the folks who opposed the Texas law and took to the State Capitol to shout down the legislature until the clock ran out. The ones who tried to smuggle jars of urine and feces into the chamber for the next vote, or who can be seen in YouTube videos chanting “Hail Satan” at their opposition.
The “pro-choice” fringe is not only fighting public opinion, but science and medicine as well. Ultrasound technology has created the common experience of seeing the first picture of a baby in utero, and there is no mistaking what the image portrays. Medical experts are demonstrating that fetuses can feel pain much earlier in pregnancy than previously thought, a reality that adds a whole new dimension to the abortion debate and was the driving force behind the new Texas law.
Most Americans are squeamish about causing any living creature pain. The growing acceptance of the truth about fetal pain gives late-term abortion defenders a tremendous challenge – not only to find ways to obscure the reality that abortion takes a human life, but to find the right words to excuse what we now know is torture.
There are no such words. And so they bring jars of urine.
Cathy Ruse is a senior legal fellow at the Family Research Council.