Many “Pro-Life” Americans Don’t Want to Outlaw Abortion

A pro-choice protester in Seattle.<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sea-turtle/5544935074/sizes/m/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Flickr/Sea Turtle</a>

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The big exciting news for Republicans in the latest Gallup poll on abortion is that more Americans identify as “pro-life” and fewer identify as “pro-choice” than ever. Although that’s probably not meaningless, Americans’ views on whether abortion should be legal haven’t actually changed at all.

Here’s the carefully written lede from Life News: “A new Gallup survey out today finds the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as supporting legalized abortion has dropped to a record low.” It’s true that the pro-life movement sees itself as opposing all forms of legalized abortion and 50 percent of Americans now identify as pro-life. But when you look at what the poll results actually say, it’s clear Americans’ feelings about abortion being legal are much more complicated:

Since 2001, at least half of Americans have consistently chosen the middle position, saying abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, and the 52% saying this today is similar to the 50% in May 2011. The 25% currently wanting abortion to be legal in all cases and the 20% in favor of making it illegal in all cases are also similar to last year’s findings.

So a large majority—77 percent—of Americans support abortion being legal in all or “certain circumstances,” and just 20 percent of Americans are actually “pro-life” in the sense that opponents of legalized abortion understand the term. Another way of saying this is that most Americans are actually pro-choice even if they sometimes identify as pro-life. In fact, there are more Americans who think abortion should be legal in all circumstances (25 percent) than think it should be illegal in all circumstances (20 percent).

That’s good news for someone, but not for people who want to outlaw abortion.

Adam Serwer is filling in while Kevin is on vacation.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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