Overbrook Research, an Illinois-based polling firm, has a fascinating study out on public opinion and abortion. Authors Christopher Blunt and Fred Steeper analyze opinon-poll data from the bellwether state of Missouri between 1992 and 2006, focusing on voters' answers to the question whether they regard themselves as "pro-life" or "pro-choice."The author, James Taranto, has been writing for some time about what he calles the Roe Effect:
The finding: Public opinion has moved strongly in the "pro-life" direction. In 1992, 34% of Missouri voters described themselves as "strongly pro-choice"; by 2006 this figure had declined to 23%. The proportion describing themselves as "strongly pro-life" rose from 26% to 36%. When those describing themselves as "somewhat" pro-whatever are included, the "pro-life" rise is 11 percentage points (30% to 41%), and the "pro-choice" decline is 13 points (43% to 30%).
It was in 1973 that the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, found a "constitutional" right to abortion, effectively legalizing the practice nationwide. By 1992 the oldest post-Roe babies were only 19. In 2006, by contrast, the entire 18- to 29-year-old cohort had been born after Roe.Also of interest, the article quotes authors of the study who speculate that the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act actually helped the pro-life movement significantly, as it helped surpress the fringe elements of the pro-life movement who's approach to advocacy was quite frankly, un-Christian:
If one makes the reasonable assumptions that "pro-life" women have a lower propensity to abort than "pro-choice" ones do, and that parents are a strong influence on their chlidren's moral attitudes, then one would expect the post-Roe cohort to be more "pro-life" than their elders.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, there were dozens of attacks against abortion clinics and the physicians who perform abortions. According to one official government count, between 1977 and 1993, there were at least 36 bombings, 81 arsons, 131 death threats, 84 assaults, 327 clinic invasions, 71 chemical attacks, and over 6,000 blockades of clinic entrances. In response, in 1994, President Clinton signed into law the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. . . .If memory serves, FACE doesn't deserve all the credit. There were some very strong efforts going on within the pro-life movement to make it clear what was and was not acceptible advocacy. But the end result, of cleansing the pro-life movement of violence in order to underline the inherent violence of abortion itself, was a major good -- whatever the combination of causes.
The law worked. Threatened by stiff new federal penalties, Operation Rescue and other vocal anti-abortion groups abruptly ceased their clinic blockades. Dramatic demonstrations and arrests gave way to peaceful prayer vigils and sidewalk counseling.
As antiabortion violence abated, the violence of abortion itself took a higher profile. In 1996 Congress approved the first federal bill to outlaw partial-birth abortion--in which the abortionist partially delivers a baby before taking its life--but opponents of the bill had enough votes to sustain President Clinton's veto. Partial-birth abortion remained at the center of the debate for more than a decade. This past April the Supreme Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.