Our respondents’ thoughts on justifications, prevention, and boundary lines
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Of all the most serious discussion topics out there, abortion’s got to be near the top. Similar to the guns conversation, it’s a complicated matter involving safety, rights, regulation, and intense political attention. It’s very sensitive, and it’s very important. Leading up to the November election, I wanted to hear what people think and add some local facts to the discussion.
Here’s where you can find the questions and results. Below’s what I found most interesting.
First, our sample’s demographics
When you look at surveys, it’s always a good idea to take a look at what types of people took the survey. Since we track how each person answers questions, we’re able to pull in responses from previous surveys for this. If some subscribers didn’t take the survey where we collected a demographic, they’re denoted by a “?” in the charts.
For this survey, we heard from about the same amount of men and women, more liberals than conservatives, and more younger people than older, though we cover the age spectrum.
With these demographics, it’s fair to assume that we’ll be seeing more pro-choice responses than pro-life. Don’t worry, I’ll break the questions apart so we can see what each group is saying, even though they’re not equal parts.
Which people think it’s never justified?
The first thing that stood out to me in the analysis was the breakdown on “can abortions ever be justified?” The focus of this question was the “ever” part — is this ever okay, depending on the situation. Essentially, are your views pragmatic or extreme?
We found that most of our respondents think abortion can be appropriate depending on the circumstances, but we had a small group that said no. I was really interested in learning more about this “never justified” group. After slicing their answers with several other data points, the two clearest patterns I found were political affiliation and whether they have children.
Starting with politics, we can see that our Republicans were a lot more likely to say No (never justified), but it was less than half of them. That really struck me — I expected all or most of the Republicans to be “never justified” people. Interesting. We also have several people in this group that we don’t know their political affiliation. Perhaps they’re Republicans too, and it would be clearer that that’s the fault line, but I can’t verify it.
Ok, here’s the other angle. We asked if our respondents have children in this survey. Interestingly enough, almost all of the “never justified” people have kids (all but one). I’m not sure if this is the reason for their view (they could all have conservative politics, as we just discussed), but maybe there’s something there.
Theory: if you’ve experienced childbirth, you may have stronger emotions and philosophies on this topic than if you don’t have kids and it’s mostly theoretical? On the other hand, many people that don’t have children could have been faced with an unwanted pregnancy, and they would certainly have opinions based on experience as well…
The mother’s health is the top justification
Ok, we asked whether abortion’s ever justified, but lets get more specific — when might it be more justified? More specific hypotheticals gives us the opportunity to see how people think about this circumstantially.
Overall, the top reasons people thought abortions could be justified are “Risk to the woman’s health,” “Rape,” or “Problems with the fetus.” That said, the woman’s health or wellbeing definitely is the top reason, because a bunch of the “Other” answers allude to that as well. Another way to summarize this would be the view that we saw in numerous comments “a woman has a right to control what’s happening to her body.”
This question’s pretty tricky to segment, and I tried it a bunch of ways, but I don’t see any angles that are particularly insightful. So, we’re going to move on.
Birth control is the most popular prevention
Alright, now lets talk prevention. From what I can tell, no one “likes” abortion — it’s an unfortunate decision for anyone involved, and everyone would rather not have to consider it in the first place. Unwanted pregnancies are at the root of this issue.
So, how to prevent the unwanted pregnancies? The most popular preventative measures were “Birth control” and “Sex education,” though there were a lot of “Other” answers — it’s a complicated topic, and a bunch of people didn’t want to pick a single best way.
Ok, but lets go back to our “never justified” group — how did they answer this? Well, they don’t really agree at all on what’s the best way to prevent abortions — they’re spread evenly across every option. I had expected to see them be fans of “Promoting abstinence” and “Making laws more restrictive,” but only a few of them landed there. Hmmm, these folks are more complex than I expected.
It’s too late if the fetus could survive on its own?
If prevention wasn’t successful, despite everyone’s best efforts, and you are faced with the decision of ending a pregnancy or not, what are the important development stages? In other words, at what point is it not okay anymore to end it?
Our respondents had a lot of different ideas about this. The most popular pick was “when the fetus could survive outside the uterus” (it’s viable), but that only got chosen 30% of the votes. “At conception” was the next most popular one, at ~20%. We also had a lot of people that had an issue with this question and chose “Other.” Most of them indicated something like “any stage can be justified.” (I should have included that option — sorry!)
Where did our “never justified” people land on this? Well, about half of them said ending a pregnancy at conception was not okay. That’s what I expected, but why did half of them indicate that a later stage was when it’s not okay? Isn’t that inconsistent?
Theory: even if you answered that abortion is “never justified,” you may not have an issue with ending it after conception (like with a morning after pill) because maybe that’s not the type of abortion you had in your mind that you said it’s never justified. Maybe later-stage abortions are what a bunch of them are against.
Restrictive laws aren’t the way to go?
Now, what about laws? If they were going to get adjusted, should they be more restrictive or less? Our respondents were mostly on the less restrictive side — not surprising, based on the way they answered other questions.
And I was guessing our “never justified” people would all be in the “much more restrictive” camp. Not quite — though they’re mostly on that side of the issue, but they’re not all super gung-ho about. But none of them are interesting in making things more lenient.
It’s important when voting, but not most important
With laws in mind, how do you think about voting on this issue? Or, how does it stack up with all your other concerns that motivate your votes? It’s across the board, but the median importance appears to be “in my top 5 issues.” Put another way, it’s important, but not the most important.
I could actually see this being more important for most people if they thought the Roe vs Wade precedent was at risk. If reversing it was a serious possibility, I’d guess that we’d see a lot more people with abortion prioritized higher in their political issues.
Next, I wanted to see where the “never justified”s landed. They’re across the spectrum. Our only #1 issue person was in that group, but the rest were spread out, with the biggest showing in the “top 5 issues” answer, like most other people.
I looked at how this broke down by gender as well. The signal wasn’t totally clear, but it looked like abortion is a bit more important to women than it is to men. Not surprising.
That’s all for quantitative analysis. Now we’re going to shift gears to qualitative, and see what interesting comments came through.
There were a lot of interesting comments, as usual. I’ve highlighted several that I think are particularly thought-provoking or representative, and I’ve bolded key phrases to help you skim.
Too much attention:
The definition of life is always different, so some think conception is life while others think viability outside of the womb is life. The constant bickering between these points causes most of the fuss.
The moral/philosophical implications as opposed to the real life implications (i.e. complications during pregnancy and being able to care for the child after birth).
Religious opinions. That shouldn’t enter into it. Per my religious beliefs, I believe abortion leads to suffering. However, I absolutely do NOT believe a government can interfere with that. It must be a choice made by those involved.
Themselves and how they _think_ they would react in a situation when they can’t actually know.
Justifying it. It’s a woman’s right to control what happens to her body.
The woman’s choice. I understand women (yes, every single one) has been robbed of too many choices, of personal autonomy too many times. But, abortion involves at least three people (woman, man, baby), one of whom never gets a voice and another who is frequently silenced/left out.
Men. I say this as a man, but it’s really as simple as that. I think time has shown us how little men are willing to learn (or care) about the conditions that women face in this society, probably because they would be faced with the reality their own behavior and socialization that is harmful towards the lives of women, even the ones they know and claim to love.
That adoption is an equal or acceptable alternative. Adoption is prohibitively expensive and difficult. The average child waits for an adoptive family for more than three years and usually spends that time as one of the almost half a million children in the deplorable American foster care system.
First off, people think women WANT to have abortions when studies show it is incredibly rare to have an abortion (all things considered). Second, people think that all Planned Parenthood does is abortions, which is blatantly false.
… reducing unwanted pregnancies (especially among young people!) is the real problem that needs to be addressed.
Abortion itself. The number of single-issue voters who often vote against their own self-interest in other crucial areas just to support a candidate who blows smoke up their asses about overturning Roe, is ridiculous.
Not enough attention:
The fact that everyone’s life — and the myriad reasons a person may have for considering abortion — are far to complex for a government to simply legislate. Education must be provided, and people must be allowed to make choices, even if those choices lead to suffering.
Pro-life is really pro-birth. Pro-life would mean that they would actually care what happened to the child after it was born to a pair of crackheads.
The bottleneck of kids who are currently waiting to be adopted in the US. Underfunding of the adoption process in Idaho were legislators want to have no abortions but don’t fund adoption services at H&W.
Having better sex education as a means of preventing abortions. Also, getting more female perspectives on abortion since so many government leaders are men.
If you don’t support abortion, don’t get one! But don’t impinge your beliefs on my freedom.
The fact that most anti-abortion proponents are more interested in punishing women for their sexual decisions than in actually preventing abortion. The loudest anti-abortion yellers also don’t want to give women easy access to birth control, don’t want to provide comprehensive sex education, don’t want to provide subsidized child care and universal paid maternity leave, and don’t believe in the gender pay gap. Not to mention that this debate is almost entirely religion-centric, and one person’s religious beliefs shouldn’t infringe on another person’s rights in this country.
Demand side solutions — best way to prevent abortion is to prevent the need for abortion. Medically accurate sex education, access to affordable birth control, support services for pregnancy/parenthood (including WIC, childcare, counseling, financial support, maternity/paternity leave policies), making adoption a more affordable option and reducing adoption restrictions (traditional family requirements for some adoption agencies). FYI — I was a spring break accident that was adopted at 2 weeks old. My mother had to fight the adoption agency in 1974 to keep me when she and husband divorced before the adoption was finalized. It was a landmark court case in NJ.
Prevention. The “conservative disconnect” between not wanting abortions to happen but refusing to support any effort that would actually result in the goal they pretend to support is frankly mind blowing. The correlation between birth control, sex education, and reproductive health services and lower rates of pregnancy and abortion is clear. If a woman wants an abortion, she should be able to easily access those services. But to the extent this country can give her a chance to not be in that position in the first place, it can and must. So at the point that the political opposition seems completely disingenuous, it seems to be about control. And that control is necessarily over women. As Justice Blackmun said way too many years ago for this to still be this relevant: “For today, the women of this Nation still retain the liberty to control their destinies. But the signs are evident and very ominous, and a chill wind blows.”
That’s all folks!
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